SEIXAL, Portugal (Reuters) - Influential Serbian international Nemanja Matic is ready to show Chelsea what they lost in next week’s Europa League final after he failed to impress in London and was shuttled to Benfica as part of David Luiz’s big-money signing in 2011.
Matic has become the undisputable boss of Benfica’s midfield, overcoming his lacklustre spell with the Premier League side that left few fond memories.
“To tell you the truth I don’t feel anything special for playing against Chelsea,” Matic told reporters on Wednesday as he previewed next week’s final in Amsterdam. The Serb played only two matches in two years at the English club.
“For me it will be like any other game of the Portuguese League or Cup, except it’s a final,” he said.
Matic featured mostly as a substitute and understudy for Javi Garcia at Benfica last season but has surpassed all expectations as a regular first team starter after the Spaniard signed for Manchester City.
“Matic is excellent but different from Garcia. He goes up the pitch more often and constructs more attacks. Javi (Garcia) sticked more to defensive tasks,” former Fulham and West Ham Portuguese forward Luis Boa Morte told aBola daily.
Matic, 24, has flourished as a complete box-to-box centre midfielder and been crucial to league front runners Benfica as they draw close to a memorable treble of championship, cup and Europa League silverware.
“I am happy that Matic is recognised for his quality. He deserves it not just for how he plays but also because he is so professional,” Benfica coach Jorge Jesus told a news conference.
“He is yet another product of Benfica.”
Chelsea paid 25 million euros and sent Matic to Lisbon in the deal for Brazilian Luiz, after paying 22 million euros for another of those Benfica “products” in 2010: Brazil midfielder Ramires.
This season Matic has earned the nickname “the spider”, because of his long and thin legs, coupled with his agility across the pitch.
He seemed pleased when asked what he thought about the moniker.
“Spider is funny,” the usually serious Serb said with a grin.
Reporting by Daniel Alvarenga; editing by Justin Palmer