Since his arrival at Valencia, Juan Manuel Matija Mata García has had Valencia fans in awe and Real Madrid fans questioning their own club for letting him go. Born in Burgos, northern Spain, on April 28 1988, Mata joined Real Oviedo. His father, and agent, also played for Oviedo so it was natural for little Juan to do the same.
Three years later he joined Real Madrid. Working his way up the youth ranks, Mata was always a shining star. He scored 18 goals in his last season as a Juvenil. He then starred in the reserve team alongside players like Nergredo, Granero and Jurado.
In March 2007 he took the bold step of leaving the Bernabeu to join Valencia. A move he would never regret. In his first full season at the Mestalla he helped the club to the Copa Del Rey title, scoring two goals in the semi-final against Barcelona and again in the Final against Getafe, and was subsequently awarded the Young Player of the Year award at the club.
Along with David Silva and David Villa, Mata has gone on to form one of the most talented attacking lines in World football. Playing in 80 games already for Valencia, he has scored 21 goals and, with Silva and Villa, has become one of the most wanted players in the World.
His rise at Valencia has been so impressive that some at the club believe the club can sell Villa and Silva in order to build a new team around Mata. With Valencia in financial turmoil, it may well be a very appealing option but calls from the European giants have already been sounded.
Not only has the 21-year old being impressive for club, but he is also a certainty to go to the World Cup despite having played just 7 games for the senior team. His form this season, and 3 goals in those 7 games, has put him in contention for a big role in South Africa.
His versatility and ability to play as a winger on either side or a second striker has merely enhanced his reputation as another of the current ‘Golden Generation’ in Spain, Mata could well surpass them all. Equally comfortable with both feet, Mata combines skill with raw pace and still has the composure to maintain a cool head in the box.
The future for Mata is very bright. This is a player who can become one of the best in the World. Already reportedly on Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City’s radars, it might not be too long before we see the Spaniard in the Premiership.
As David Villa once said ‘the future that Juan Mata has is infinite’.