Former Chelsea assistant coach Ray Wilkins has criticised Antonio Conte’s decision to sell Nemanja Matic to Manchester United over the summer.
Romelu Lukaku’s move to Old Trafford appeared to rule out any prospect of the Serbian going in the same direction but Mourinho eventually managed to secure his services for £40m.
And he has been a seminal influence at the base of midfield, giving the side’s entire structure more balance whilst freeing up Paul Pogba to inflict damage going forward.
Speaking on Sky Sports, Wilkins could hide his frustration at Conte’s decision to let such an important player join a rival side.
“It’s the worst I’ve ever seen, if I can say,” he said.
“I cannot see that for the life of me. You’ve got a guy here who was so paramount to Chelsea along with Kante in the middle of the pitch, winning the championship for Chelsea the year before and all of a sudden you’ve sold him to one of or the biggest rivals we have.
“I say we because I am a Chelsea supporter so I’m speaking from the heart when I speak. I just could not see why we would let Nemanja go there. He’s been outstanding for us and you’ve seen in the short period that he’s been there, how he’s allowed Pogba to basically go and do what he wants.
“I just couldn’t see that piece of business, at all.”
Conte never wanted Matic to leave. That much is clear. But the Serbian wanted a move to Old Trafford above anything and didn’t stop until he got his wish. And the fact that he decided to leave the champions for a club that finished sixth last season tells you everything about the magnitude of the latter in comparison with the former.
In response, the Italian has signed two midfielders to fulfil the role mastered by Matic last season: Danny Drinkwater to provide firmness at the base of midfield and Tiemoue Bakayoko to break through the lines. And how successful this dynamic will be in contrast with the sheer verve offered by Matic, now thriving at United, remains to be seen.