Sold in January 2011 as part of the deal which brought David Luiz to Stamford Bridge, Nemanja Matic returned to his former employers three years later for a fee reported to have been in excess of £20million.
Having only made two substitute appearances in the Premier League following a £1.5 million transfer from Slovakian club MFK Kosice in 2009, football fans were quick to rush to forums and social media to express their concerns at the price of Matic’s second coming. The fact that the Serbian still remained something of an unknown player to these shores only heightened their sense of anxiety.
Of course, from a financial perspective the second signing of Matic was a farcical scenario. To re-acquire a player for such an extravagant sum having previously sold him as a nominal counterweight in another substantial deal makes no business sense whatsoever.
But when has business logic ever applied to football, let alone Chelsea?
Since returning to Stamford Bridge, Matic has provided the towering physical presence that Jose Mourinho’s side had lacked in the centre of midfield. Although the likes of Frank Lampard, John Obi Mikel and Ramires all bring their respective strengths to the team, none of them can match the sheer strength that the Serbian offers. In the victory at Manchester City, Matic’s presence visibly unsettled Yaya Toure in a manner which hadn’t been seen before. Power through the spine was a hallmark of Mourinho’s previous Chelsea side and the signing of Matic is a throwback to this era.
It is apparent that the Serbian has improved substantially from his regular starting role in a strong Benfica side. Rather than becoming one of the many who fade into the background in Chelsea’s loan system, Matic made the brave decision to move and is now reaping the rewards having secured his return.
Although it has just been a few months, it already looks like Mourinho has made a very smart footballing move by signing the Serbian, regardless of his previous affiliation to the club. The ‘Special One’ identified a player that suited his vision for the side and sanctioned the transfer on this basis alone. In football terms, it would have been ridiculous to overlook the right player on the basis that he had been previously sold by the club.
In Spanish football, the buyback clause is a prominent feature in numerous transfers and it has been utilised on several occasions. Most recently Real Madrid re-signed Daniel Carvajal from Bayer Leverkusen for €6.5million having sold him for €5million just the season before. Having struggled for playing time at the Bernabéu, Carvajal made the move and established himself as one of the leading right backs in the Bundesliga before returning a year later. At the cost of €1.5million, Real Madrid now possess a much improved player who has featured in the first team line-up in recent weeks.
It would be impossible to find anybody that would deem Barcelona’s re-signings of Cesc Fabregas and Gerard Piqué as anything but a footballing success. At the cost of approximately £45million, the Catalans acquired two of their former academy players that have since proven to be such vital components of their success in recent years. In this situation the players had left against the club’s wishes, but this previous affiliation didn’t stop Barcelona making the move for the correct players for their system.
Of course, like all other transfers, there have been many re-signings that haven’t worked out for the player or the club. Esteban Granero twice failed to make the grade at Real Madrid. In English football, Robbie Fowler couldn’t to live up to his previous moniker of “God” in his second stint at Anfield and Sol Campbell failed to recapture his previous form on his return to Arsenal.
However, the success that the likes of Matic and Mathieu Flamini have had this season alone is proof that re-signing a player can indeed work. There are risks associated with any transfer and and this includes the potential acquisition of a former player. But if the player is a correct fit for the team and the manager, as Matic and Flamini have proven to be this year, then the fact they are re-signing should not be held against them.
From a financial viewpoint, Chelsea’s re-signing of Matic marked a terrible piece of business. However, from a footballing perspective the 6’ 4” Serbian offers very visible proof that re-signings can work.