Igor Matić dropped off the radar after bursting onto the scene in 2004 but now finally looks to be living up to his potential with OFK Grbalj. "I haven't missed my train altogether," said the 28-year-old.
Matić looked a star in the making at OFK Beograd in 2003/04, subsequently forming a pivotal part of the Serbia and Montenegro team that finished runners-up in the 2004 UEFA European Under-21 Championship. While team-mates Branislav Ivanović (Chelsea FC), Miloš Krasić (PFC CSKA Moskva), Danko Lazović (PSV Eindhoven) and Simon Vukčević (Sporting Clube de Portugal) moved on to bigger and better things, Matić, by his own admission, went backwards.
"After the European Championship, I had two options – to join Crvena Zvezda or go to France," he said. "I chose the second, went to SM Caen, and made a mistake. The club were relegated, and I was first to pay the price. That was a big blow and I didn't have the mental strength to continue like nothing happened. It's very important to train with full intensity over the winter break."
Now, however, he has rediscovered his footings. "I can still get back," he added. "It's too late for an impressive career, but I haven't missed my train altogether." Matić's eight goals and seven assists have helped Grbalj to fourth in the Prva crnogorska and through to the cup semi-finals but, such is his resurgance, the player's appetite is yet to be sated. "I'm satisfied, but I can get better," he said. "I had an injury at the beginning and missed a big part of the team's preparations."
'I feel great'
Matić knows Grbalj could be set to achieve their aims. "We had a fantastic finish [before the winter break], getting 16 points from a possible 18. I regret that we didn't have these results earlier, but our goal is to gain a place in European competition. We are heading in the right direction." But, with rumours of interest from league leaders FK Budućnost Podgorica, will Matić still be around to keep them on course? "I have a contract with Grbalj, I feel great here and I just want to play the best I can, I owe that to myself," he said.
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