Nemanja Matic is looking like a shrewd bit of business after Jose Mourinho brought the tough-tackling Serb back to Stamford Bridge in January.
The sound of derisive snorts from critics over a business model in relation to Nemanja Matic are beginning to fade fast as Chelsea continue to sweep all that is in front of them.
The idea a club could financially justify including a player as a £5million makeweight before turning to him in a £21million deal just three years later is fanciful and absurd in equal measure.
Many have argued since the giant Serb's return that his departure in the deal which saw David Luiz arrive from Benfica in January 2011 was almost as big a gaffe as the £50million shelled out to purchase Fernando Torres in the same window.
Early evidence suggests they may well have a case. Matic has already slotted into the '2' in Chelsea's 4-2-3-1 with astounding ease and looks well-equipped for the rigours of top-flight football in this country.
Previously deemed surplus to requirements, and just the latest in a string of Blues youngsters who failed to make the grade, Matic is appearing to be the key behind Chelsea's push for the title.
Like a long-distance runner, Chelsea have played this season perfectly to date, before forcing the issue in the new year when it truly matters and, while fellow title rivals Manchester City and Arsenal failed to reinforce their squads adequately in January, Jose Mourinho made the most important signing of all by netting the much-coveted midfield talent.
Matic embodies the Mourinho way in his defensive-mindedness, strength in the air and in the tackle, before you even consider his deceptive turn of pace across the ground.
He has made just four appearances so far, but has impressed in every one of them, as the statistics from the early showings in his second spell at Stamford Bridge will attest.
His total average attempted tackles so far reads an impressive 3.75, and is made all the more encouraging by the fact he wins 2.75 per match.
The 6ft4" midfielder offers the perfect platform for Willian, Oscar and Hazard to weave their magic in front of him as he wins the ball back for his side and offloads it, standing him out as an instant favourite of Mourinho's strict, rigid system.
His success in duels thus far also makes for positive reading, having won 7.75 per appearance to just 5.75 lost and when compared to his midfield peers, he is superior in every department listed below.
That should not detract from how Frank Lampard, Jon Obi Mikel and Ramires have performed this season, but you sense Mourinho's well-oiled machine is nearing completion, with Matic proving a vital cog.
Ramires runs him close and it ought to be factored in that each of the trio aside from the Serb have played considerably more matches, but his 2.25 aerial duels won to 1.25 that he loses each game dwarfs the 1.43 the Brazilian loses and wins per outing.
Likewise, Mikel is the only midfield man to claim to be in competition with him for his ability to intercept, something he achieves 1.25 times a game to Mikel's 1.17.
Statistics may prove futile to some, but just watching this man-mountain of a player is enough to make you realise Matic is the man Chelsea needed most to win this title. Hazard's input should not be overlooked, but neither should the man who will fail to win the plaudits that come regularly to the Belgian.
|Name||Team||Pos||Total Tackle / apps||Won Tackle / apps||Duel Lost / apps||Duel Won / apps||Aerial Lost / apps||Aerial Won / apps||Interception / apps||Apps||Mins|
|John Obi Mikel||Chelsea||MF||1.33||1.17||3.22||3.17||1.33||0.89||1.17||18||856|
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