Ray Wilkins admits that he never expected Nemanja Matic to become a top Premier League player while coaching the midfielder at Chelsea, but the former assistant manager doesn’t mind being proved wrong.
Signed from Slovakian outfit Kosice for around £1.5 million in August 2009, aged 19, Matic made just three first-team appearances during his first spell with the Blues, before moving to Benfica in 2011 as part of the deal which sent David Luiz in the opposite direction.
His excellent form in Portugal, however, prompted Jose Mourinho to bring him back to the club last winter for a fee of more than £20 million, with the Serbian international since going on to establish himself as one of the top defensive midfielders in the game.
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Wilkins concedes that he was instrumental to ending Matic's first stint at Stamford Bridge, having been unconvinced of the 26-year-old's top-flight credentials at the time, but is thoroughly amazed at how far he has progressed since.
‘When he left a few years ago, I was instrumental in that. He was half the size, wasn’t influential in a game for the reserves and looked as if he was drifting,’ he told talkSPORT.
‘Then he left to go to Benfica and, full credit to him, he showed what he was all about. He has come back twice the size, he is huge, and he is performing outstandingly well.’