Upon arriving at Old Trafford in the winter of 2014 for a cool £37million, Juan Mata was largely considered one of the undisputed stars of the current Premier League era.
He had finished the 2012/13 season with a second successive Chelsea Player of the Year award under his belt, and with everything going so swimmingly for the little Spaniard down at Stamford Bridge – very few expected his departure to come so swiftly.
Since Jose Mourinho re-emerged back in west London however, the 26-year-old midfielder’s days with the Blues were seemingly numbered. The Brazilian Oscar was preferred in a creative midfield position, whilst both Eden Hazard, and somehow Willian, were given priority on the flanks – leaving the once un-droppable Mata to patiently twiddle his thumbs on the bench.
Such a turnaround in fortunes for the former Valencia man could have only really taken place at a club like Chelsea – where the desire to sign another big name in world football often comes before that of honouring those players who had already put in top performances for the club – but nevertheless, after a mere half a season under Mourinho, the Spanish midfielder was unceremoniously on his way out the door.
In light of this decision, have Chelsea simply rued the loss of Juan Mata to rivals Manchester United since he made the all-important move, or has his departure in-fact been a good thing for Jose Mourinho and his current Blues team?
One thing just has to remain clear within this whole debate surrounding Louis van Gaal’s current no.8, and that is that Juan Mata truly is a great player – regardless of which team calls him their own. He seems to have sadly drifted somewhat under the radar of late. Manchester United simply don’t carry the same level of attention that they used to under Sir Alex Ferguson, several new more commercially profitable stars seemed to have cropped up in recent years, and breaking into that formidable Spanish starting XI will always be tough ask for Mata – even at the best of times.
Yet none of this should cloud the fact that the ex-Stamford Bridge favourite really is a true asset for his respective managers. The midfielder possess an ability to dictate proceedings when he’s truly on song. His excellent ball control, intelligent vision and uncanny knack to provide an assist out of nowhere all combine together nicely for Juan Mata and have thus far served him well during his time in the Premier League.
So why on earth then did Jose Mourinho and Chelsea ever see fit to let him go? Well for one thing, the Blues haven’t exactly been struggling this season without Mata on board. The likes of Eden Hazard in particular play a similar role to what the current Manchester United man would be doing for Chelsea this campaign, and in the 24-year-old Belgian international, the Stamford Bridge faithful arguably have someone who provides even more of a threat than their former main man. As picking up close to £40million for the ex-fan favourite also bodes well for Mourinho’s decision to let him go, perhaps Chelsea never really needed Juan Mata after-all.
That said, if Chelsea saw it necessary to land Juan Cuadrado this winter on an albeit less expensive deal, it does seem a bit silly that the Spanish midfielder was cast away so readily. Yes – the Colombian international is only just beginning his career at Stamford Bridge, and yes, the former Fiorentina man does in-fact bring with him a great deal of potential – but so far the signs seem to suggest that Chelsea may as well have not bothered with Cuadrado when they could have just stayed patient with Mata. Simply put – Jose Mourinho really would have a stronger looking outfit with the former Stamford Bridge star still on board.
Regardless of Mourinho’s somewhat confusing decision, Chelsea’s loss has nonetheless been Manchester United’s gain in all of this. Whilst Mata is yet to truly find his top form for Louis van Gaal this season, expect him to turn it up to full force for the Red Devils sooner rather than later, and to subsequently see Man United rise back up the Premier League table as a result of the Spaniard’s quality influence.