On January 15 2014 Chelsea completed arguably the wisest transfer deal of Jose Mourinho’s second spell at Stamford Bridge.
The decision to buy back Nemanja Matic from Benfica, having only sold him three years previous, has turned out to be a masterstroke from the Blues, and one that could very well be one of the most pivotal factors in them clinching the Premier League title this year, should they manage it.
When he was initially offloaded as part of the agreement that saw a certain David Luiz head to west London in 2011 the giant Serb was a relative unknown; just one of a host of European players purchased young by Chelsea in the hope that they would turn out to be an unearthed diamond. He took a little while to shine through, but few can say Matic is anything other than an indispensable asset in his position.
He’s not alone when it comes to players thriving away from Chelsea before being reintroduced to the fold when their graduation is complete. Thibaut Courtois, who for all intents and purposes became an Atletico Madrid man for three years, also returned to Stamford Bridge last summer, and similarly to Matic he’s been an unmitigated success.
The Chelsea system
It may not sit well with the game’s purists, but Chelsea’s method of raising young players before shipping them out on loan or selling them on for a large profit is brutally efficient. The individual in question will either flop or thrive elsewhere, meaning the Blues encompass minimal risk, and if they eventually excel there’s one place they’re usually aiming to prove themselves more than anywhere else. A former stomping ground, a place they once called home; Stamford Bridge.
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Only the best of the best can cut it in the Blues first-team at the first time of asking. For many players the starting XI will be a bridge they won’t ever have the capabilities to cross, for others it’s simply a divide made impossible by the amount of world-class players standing in their way. That was the initial problem with Matic, prior to his coming of age in Portugal. It also looks to have been the issue with Kevin De Bruyne.
De Bruyne rumours
The Belgian international claimed yesterday that had he been worth more money he might have stood a better chance at forcing his way into Mourinho’s plans last season. The 23-year-old toiled and tried but ultimately there was no pressing the issue in his favour; those ahead of him in the pecking order had names that carried more prestige and experience.
Of the two choices he was confronted with, to seek a loan move with the hope of returning for another crack this year or to depart permanently, De Bruyne chose the latter. Frustration will have certainly played a part, but there’s no questioning that when the midfielder joined VfL Wolfsburg he would have refuted the idea of ever plying his trade for Chelsea again.
Coming of age
Fast forward to present and De Bruyne is hovering just below a line that virtually all Blues outcasts strive to reach. His classy performances for the Bundesliga outfit have enhanced his reputation back to eye-catching levels; his internship away from west London has given the chance to put two fingers up at those not interested in hearing his claims for a spot in Chelsea’s senior squad.
With rumours that Mourinho is to focus his efforts on recapturing the man he once discarded rife, De Bruyne himself has been forced to confront the speculation head on, and his comments hardly play down the idea of following in Matic’s footsteps.
Chelsea sure to swoop
From a neutral standpoint it looks like it’s heading in one direction, and at the end of the trail of speculation is a reunion that will once more lend its blessings to Chelsea’s system of buying back players they’ve effectively lent out.
Just where De Bruyne would find space in the current Blues XI is a discussion best left for when confirmation is more forthcoming either way, but one would have to assume that Mourinho will remain on top of the situation if his former star continues to improve.
It may have seemed an impossible deal to begin with, but with Matic’s precedent having paved the way, don’t be surprised to see the Blues move to angle De Bruyne towards a glorious homecoming.
Chelsea fans, do you think De Bruyne will return to Stamford Bridge? Would it be a good piece of business if they did? Let us know in the comments box below...