Chelsea star Nemanja Matic has revealed that he found it difficult to change positions when he was initially asked to become the defensive midfield unit that he is today by Benfica manager Jorge Jesus.
In an interview with Soccer AM, as relayed by Sky Sports, the Serbia international spoke of the troubles he had with regards to breaking into the Blues first-team during his original stint at Stamford Bridge, and insisted that Jesus is to thank for moulding him into the colossal presence that he has become in the middle of the park.
Having returned to west London during the last January transfer window for £21 million, Matic has become a mainstay in Jose Mourinho’s squad, and his ability to break up play and protect the back four has seen him lauded as arguably their most influential player.
However, despite the fact that he’s looked a natural in said position since his second coming in English football, Matic was quick to impress upon the fact that it wasn’t always the case.
"When I first came to Chelsea, I was very young and there were big players in my position, so it was difficult for me to play," said Matic.
"Now I’m 26 and it is different. I have more experience and have improved a lot. I came here to show that I can play in the Premier League and for Chelsea. I’m happy at the moment.
"On my first day at Benfica, when I came into the dressing room, the coach asked to speak with me.
"When I first came to Chelsea I was very young and there were big players in my position, so it was difficult for me to play. Now I’m 26 and it is different. I have more experience and have improved a lot."
"He said he thought I was a No 6, which in Portugal is the holding midfielder, that I will play that position and step by step I can become a great player. I asked him if he was sure! It wasn’t easy for me during the first few months but now I feel it’s the right position."
"It wasn’t easy for me during the first few months but now I feel it’s the right position"
Maintaining the brilliance
The 26-year-old went on to admit that he and his teammates are feeling the pressure of their unbeaten start to this season’s campaign, despite the fact that they’ve swept away all before them wit apparent consummate ease.
Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Sunderland has been seen as a relative blip by the early standards Mourinho’s side have set, but they remain top of the league with a virtually unblemished record.
"We know it’s going to be difficult to not lose any games but everything is possible," he continued.
"We are in a good moment right now and will try to continue our unbeaten run."
It’s fair to say that if Chelsea continue their unrelenting charge and are crowned Premier League champions, as many expect they indeed will be, Matic will have played a significant part.
Along with the likes of Eden Hazard and Diego Costa he’s been a standout performer in England’s top flight this year, and when it comes to assertive figures in perhaps the most important part of the pitch, Mourinho couldn’t have dreamed of having a better individual.
Just as Yaya Toure steered Manchester City to the title last term Matic looks like being a driving force from the heart of the midfield, and though he describes compatriot Branislav Ivanovic as being the “David Beckham” of Serbia, there’s no questioning who will get the plaudits providing Mourinho’s charge to major silverware doesn’t stall.
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