If he were going to any other club in Europe, Benfica would be getting castigated over the Nemanja Matic transfer. A star midfielder on a long-term contract, it's not at all out of the question that Matic could have been sold for a figure close to what the club received for Axel Witsel, who went from the Estadio da Luz to Zenit St. Petersburg for €40 million a season and a half ago.
Instead, Matic is going to Chelsea, and although we don't know the fee just yet, the rumoured number is somewhere around 25 million. From the Benfica perspective, that looks like daylight robbery:
26m€ for Matic is a bargain, in my opinion. Benfica didnt do a good deal no this one.— Gonçalo Lopes (@_GoncaloLopes) January 14, 2014
But the overwhelming narrative surrounding the deal won't be that Benfica sold a top player for far too little. Instead, it'll be that Chelsea are wasting money buying back a player they used to own at a huge loss. That's an easy story to get behind, seeing as most people don't like Chelsea -- it's also superficial at best and downright stupid at worst.
There's little doubt that including Matic in the David Luiz deal was a mistake. Indeed, we said at the time that it would be:
"If everything clicks with Nemanja Matic, he has the physical tools to be one of the elite players in Europe. I have a strong suspicion that this move will come back to haunt us in the future, and that this may end up being one of the better moves in the history of Portuguese football."
Three years later, those words look awfully prophetic. Chelsea let a star slip away for a few million, and with the midfield in a sorry state, watching Matic develop into a top-class player in Portugal was excruciating. Selling Matic on January 31st, 2011 constituted a major error of judgement on the part of Frank Arnesen.
The problem with invoking that sale in order to analyse the current trasfer, however, is that no matter what Chelsea do the mistake has already been made. Not buying Matic would rather obviously not mitigate having sold him in the first place, and while buying him back is an admission that the Blues erred three years ago, it would take some rather perverse logic to imagine that the club shouldn't buy a player for a position they need simply to avoid admitting a mistake.
Selling Matic to Benfica and buying Matic back from Benfica are two entirely separate transactions. One resulted from terrible judgement, the other looks like a relative bargain. By all means, point out that we rather royally [funned] things up in 2011. But don't pretend as though the mistake made back then is happening right now, or you're just going to end up horrendously confused.
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