Rising to prominence at the tender age of 18 with Colo Colo, ‘Mati’ Fernandez has had something of an unexpected career arc, given that he departed Chile clutching the 2006 South American Footballer of the Year award. Amidst interest from Europe’s finest, Mati chose instead to join compatriot Manuel Pellegrini at Villarreal, where – in theory – he looked set to replace Juan Roman Riquelme as the side’s creative fulcrum. Sadly, things didn’t turn out quite that way. A stop-start spell at El Madrigal followed, with the promise shown at Colo Colo rapidly becoming something of a distant memory.
Having spent close to €9m on Fernandez in 2006, Villarreal accepted an initial €3.65m from Sporting Clube de Portugal in June 2009, an indicator of just how little the Chilean had progressed during his time in Spain. Despite making a respectable 25 starts in his first season at the Alvalade, Mati all too often found himself allowing the game to pass him by, and as the campaign went on, he was generally more of a late substitute.
Of course, Mati was not helped by the institutional strife at Sporting, with the club finishing a whopping 28 points behind eventual title winners Benfica. It was a similar story for the rest of 2010, with Mati handed just 7 starts by Paulo Sergio. However, his resignation and the arrival of Jose Couceiro as interim coach precipitated an upturn in fortunes for the Chilean playmaker. Couceiro implemented a settled 4-2-3-1 system, which saw Mati allotted the classic number ten role to which he is best suited. He ended the campaign in fine form, with his vintage display against FC Porto an especially memorable moment. After a frustrating 5 years in Europe, Mati may just be beginning to fulfil some of that potential…
Name: Matias Fernandez
Position: Attacking midfielder
Club Team: Sporting CP (Portugal, Primeira Liga)
Chances Copa America increases transfer interest: Unlikely. Mati is talented but many of Europe's top clubs will be hesitant after his comparative failure in Spain.
Role in the team: Playmaker