Football is a fickle mistress.
And the fact that Nemanja Matic has been so brutally written off, unfairly labelled a ‘has-been’ at the age of just 31, speaks volumes about the disposable culture of today’s game.
Yes, Matic has fallen down the pecking order at Manchester United, behind youngsters Scott McTominay and James Garner let alone the much-maligned Fred, but a player with two Premier League winner’s medals and 48 international caps still has a lot to offer.
West Ham seem to think so, anyway.
90Min reported last week that The Hammers are set to offer the £120,000-a-week Matic an escape route from Old Trafford in January and the Serbian, who spent two spells in the blue of Chelsea, would welcome a return to London.
And while West Ham fans might be concerned about the arrival of another high-earning, 30-something player, with the dreadful spells endured by Alvaro Arbeloa, Jose Fonte and even Pablo Zabaleta still fresh in the mind, it’s worth considering what Premier League great Yaya Toure had to say about Matic in an interview with The Times.
“Nemanja Matic was complicated. He’s not quick but he’s so strong, clever. All the rest of the opponents, because I always looked at them carefully before games, I get their weakness,” said the Manchester City legend, labelling Matic as his toughest ever opponent.
Considering that Toure spent over a decade at the top level, playing against the likes of N’Golo Kante, Steven Gerrard and Xabi Alonso, that is some statement.
The question is, how can West Ham get the best out of a man whose legs are nowhere near as fast as his mind? Fortunately for Manuel Pellegrini, he has two players who could act as the perfect foil for Matic in a three-man midfield – the tenacious Declan Rice and the evergreen Mark Noble.
With Rice and Noble doing Matic’s running for him, the Serb will be free to dictate the tempo from the centre of the park and give Pellegrini the kind of control his West Ham team are so badly lacking in front of a vulnerable defence.
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