Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has admitted that he never wanted to sell Nemanja Matic to Manchester United this summer.
Jose Mourinho landed a considerable blow to Chelsea’s preparations for the upcoming campaign by pinching Romelu Lukaku – a big target for the Italian – from under their nose.
Conte, in turn, reportedly ruled out the prospect of selling Matic to United but was rendered powerless by the midfielder’s desire to move and Mourinho offering £40m.
And the Italian, speaking on Sky Sports, duly admitted that selling Matic to United was a big blow to his side heading into the 2017/18 campaign.
“Matic knows very well what I think about him,” he said.
“The importance for me about this player because, I repeat, he’s a really good and strong player – and important for our team.
“Sometimes you must accept this crazy transfer market and sometimes you must accept different decisions. But I repeat for sure he is a great loss.”
United suffered a sobering loss to Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup, handed a powerful footballing lesson by Europe’s very best, but supporters, in spite of defeat, were quick to point out the robust, imperturbable influence of Matic in midfield. The two time Premier League winner, despite lacking much speed himself, understands how to handle rapidly paced encounters and will, without doubt, serve as an indispensable spine for United this season.
Chelsea, meanwhile, have lost a curtain raiser of their own in the form of the Community Shield against Arsenal. But their defeat contained little in the form of silver linings, especially when it came to their midfield: Sead Kolasinac and Granit Xhaka tramped all over Cesc Fabregas and N’Golo Kante, the pair looking lethargic and lacking direction without the indomitable Matic behind them.
Conte’s side are, of course, still firm title contenders, but nobody can doubt that Mourinho has weakened them – both literally and mentally – this summer.