While Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas have been stealing the headlines, Nemanja Matic has been going about his work quietly and efficiently in the Chelsea midfield.
The Serbian International joined Chelsea for a second time in January in a surprise swoop by Jose Mourinho. He had been at Stamford Bridge in 2009 after being signed from MFK Kosice but made only two brief appearances before joining Vitesse on loan.
In 2011, Matic was sold to Benfica as a make-weight in the deal that brought Brazilian David Luiz to Chelsea. The midfielder played against the Blues in the final of the Europa League in May last year, eventually finishing on the losing side after Branislav Ivanovic?s late headed goal.
Matic was clearly now far more than a make-weight and Mourinho paid £21million to bring him back to Stamford Bridge on a five-year deal. The player expressed a determination to succeed at the club and made an immediate impact, especially during Chelsea?s 1-0 win at Man City in February.
Matic appears to be growing in confidence with every game and struck his first Premiership goal in the 6-3 win at Everton. He then scored the winning goal as Chelsea moved to the top of their Group in the Champions League with a 1-0 win over Sporting Lisbon. Matic is recognised as a defensive midfield player but he has already displayed great awareness in making incisive passes that threaten opposing defences.
While every great team must have its star players, it also needs a solid spine and Matic has quickly established himself as a key component of Mourinho?s potential championship winning side. He works tirelessly for the team and has an excellent disciplinary record. The fact that he can also score goals gives him a clear edge over Mikel who has been attempting to play a similar role in recent seasons. When Mikel scored against Fulham last year, it was his first goal in more than 250 matches for the Blues.
Mourinho has plenty of attacking midfield options in Oscar, Ramires, Willian, Salah and Hazard. In Fabregas and Matic he has a reliable engine-room from which to build. Matic will have enjoyed his moment in the spotlight at Sporting Lisbon but will be perfectly happy to do the donkey-work and let his more illustrious team-mates take the plaudits. Chelsea originally paid £1.5million for Matic in 2009 and a few eye-brows were raised when they paid fourteen times that amount last year. It is now starting to look like a very good investment.