It’s an awfully large shirt to full for one with a frame so slight. Last seen ripped off and flung euphorically onto Germanic soil, the number 11 jersey that once adorned the hulking frame of Didier Drogba has been passed on to a man who it now swamps. Luckily for Chelsea, what their new Brazilian wonderkid Oscar lacks in physique he more than makes up for with the ball at his feet.
While Chelsea could only muster a 2-2 draw against Juventus last night as the defence of their European crown got off to a stuttering start, there was at least something to be excited about from an ultimately disappointing evening.
The performance of Oscar, making his first full start for the Blues since his £25 million summer move from Internacional, even moved his opponents to singing his praises. His second goal of the match, which seemingly gave Chelsea an unassailable lead, was a thing of beauty, even according to the man who watched it sail over his head.
"Oscar turned on a sixpence and put the ball under the bar," Juventus goalkeeper Buffon told UEFA.com after the game. "I won’t say it’s nice to concede a goal, but it’s still nice to be a part of a great goal like that. Compliments to him."
Having arrived at Stamford Bridge back in July, the 21-year-old has been largely forced to take a back seat at his new club so far while those signed at a similar time take centre stage.
Eden Hazard, Chelsea’s new Golden Boy, has taken the Premier League by storm, and has five assists and a goal to his name. Oscar meanwhile, has managed just 59 minutes in English football’s top flight to date.
His exertions at the Olympics, in a football tournament he lit up with a string of luminous performances as Brazil narrowly missed out on the gold medal, go someway to explaining why he is only now breaking free of the cotton wool he has been swaddled in thus far.
London bathed in a golden glow over the summer thanks to the Olympic efforts of team GB , but as far as the football tournament was concerned, there was only one man who deserved to stand upon the top step.
His louche style has garnered favourable comparisons with the man whose crown he’s taken in the national team, Real Madrid’s Kaka, but for his country in the Olympics and against Juventus last night the young Brazilian proved there is more to his game than deft touches and gliding across the turf.
His work rate alone was enough to impress; the 9 kilometres he covered in 75 minutes compared favourably to those attuned to the hustle and bustle of Champions League and European football.
On top of that his ability as a ball-player is second to none; artistry appears to be his first language. His second goal came after the most delicious of turns that left his marker, the increasingly grizzled Andrea Pirlo, treading water. Equally, Leonardo Bonucci was stranded behind him. Mouths dropped at the finish that followed.
Approaching the ball from 90 degrees after bamboozling his markers, Oscar wrapped his boot around the ball that and licked his shot past Buffon. In that moment, and as he wheeled away chased by his disbelieving team-mates, a star was born.
He only lasted 75 minutes before liming off the pitch, but that was long enough to leave an indelible mark on a game that would soon turn ugly for the hosts.
Of course, having taken such an elaborate bow on the grandest stage, there is no guaranteeing Oscar’s place in Chelsea’s starting line up against Stoke this weekend even before his ankle was rattled by Arturo Vidal.
Picked in an attacking foursome alongside Fernando Torres, Eden Hazard, Ramires yesterday, it’s highly unlikely Juan Mata, whose place the Brazilian took, will be consigned to the bench too often this season having been named the club’s player of the season last time round.
Di Matteo is aware of the workload Mata has undertaken across the last 12 months which includes appearing at Euro 2012 and the Olympics with Spain, and will likely use him selectively for the time being. When fully recovered from his exertions, the Spaniard will be knocking on his manager’s door, demanding a start.
But that is a problem for tomorrow, and the day after. Roberto di Matteo wasn’t the happiest of bunny's after seeing his side throw away a healthy lead under 24 hours after pronouncing Chelsea had the talent to win the Champions League for an historic second time.
Those who believe their glorious night in Munich was built upon a foundation of pure luck had plenty of fodder after seeing the Blues stutter badly against a side absent from the top table of European football for four years.
However, for all his concerns elsewhere, of which there are a fair few, Di Matteo can rest easy, safe in the knowledge that he has at his disposal a precocious young trequartista who has the world at his feet.
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