We've already had the awards season for the entertainment industry with the Oscars and Golden Globes dominating column inches across the world's media in the beginning stages of 2013.Now, as the football season draws to a close, the real awards business kicks in with the best players lauded for their endeavors.
In England, the two main awards are for PFA Player of the Year, voted for by players up and down the country, and Footballer of the Year, voted for by members of the Football Writers Association. Last season saw Robin van Persie win both, and while the Dutch ace is among the front-runners this term, he's going to lose out to Chelsea's Juan Mata, isn't he?
Not so according to bookmakers who have van Persie and Gareth Bale as the favourites (see Paddy Power). But what of Mata? The Spanish ace has enjoyed another sensational season in West London, but he seems to have been overlooked once more.
Chelsea have enjoyed a sudden upturn in form of late that leaves them with a realistic opportunity to lift both the FA Cup and Europa League, while also finishing in the Premier League's top four. Considering the turmoil the Blues have been through—on and off the pitch—that they have anything to play for this late on in the campaign isn't so much a miracle, but is a surprise nonetheless.
The man they must thank for that is Mata, who has at times throughout 2012-13 has carried this Chelsea team. A quick look at the Spaniard's stats says that much, with him directly involved in 41 goals for his club (23 assists, 18 goals).
Chelsea have scored 113 in all competitions with Mata on the pitch, meaning the No. 10 has chipped in—in one form or another—with over a third of their goals.
It's a phenomenal statistic—one that outlines his importance to what Chelsea are trying to achieve. Given the aforementioned troubles the club has endured, it's all the more impressive.
This is not to say van Persie and Bale are not fine players—they are—but while the duo have impressed for Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur respectively, they have done so in a settled team and there's no question the advantage that can bring.
Whereas van Persie has been slotted into a United outfit that caters to his vast ability, Mata has had to contend with managerial changes and the introduction of new personnel.
And whereas his form has remained consistent throughout the season, it's only the past month or so that Bale has really come into his own, with just shy of half his goals this term, for instance, coming since the last weekend in January.
Comparing the stats of van Persie and the Welshman to Mata further adds to the notion of his superiority this term: Van Persie has 25 goals with eight assists, while Bale currently has 21 and eight, also.
There are times stats alone can allow for misjudgement, but in Mata's case it reinforces what a remarkable player he is. Not only has he won Chelsea vital points and matches this term with his goals, he has also provided his teammates with the ammunition. To quote a much-used cliche in football, that's "worth its weight in gold."
Sure, this is not stat crunching at Moneyball levels, but it does highlight an important aspect of the value Mata has continued to bring to Chelsea. Players have won awards for far less.
The Spaniard is a player of grace, a man who oozes quality that has far outreached that of his peers in England this season. Mata deserves to be honored, but will he?
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•All stats from ESPN and Soccerbase.com