Jose Mourinho may be preoccupied with an ambitious bid to land Wayne Rooney, but the Portuguese manager must quickly ensure Juan Mata is the focus of Chelsea’s 2013-2014 season.
Somewhat surprisingly, the Spaniard’s summer has been filled with questions over his future. Despite a stunning 2012-2013 campaign for the Europa League winners, Mata has been the subject of unfair speculation since Mourinho’s arrival.
As reported by The Daily Telegraph back in June, the versatile player was forced to dismiss rumours that he is surplus to requirements at Stamford Bridge.
Mourinho should have quashed such thoughts before they began to linger. In the wake of Chelsea’s £25 million bid for Rooney, the former Real Madrid boss has finally stepped up to protect his key asset.
Amid suggestions that Mourinho was ready to offload Mata or David Luiz in a player-plus-cash deal with the Premier League champions, the returning Blues boss confirmed the news every Chelsea fan wanted to hear. As reported by Sky Sports, Mourinho suggests there is no chance of either player leaving South West London:
No chance. No chance.
I am not going to contact them based on news that is not true and that they know that it is not true, because I told them they are very important for me.
I spoke with them during the summer, in my period of holiday and their period in the Confederations Cup. I told them that I will see them on the 28th.
Chelsea's recent investment in young players such as Andre Schurrle and Marco van Ginkel confirms this a transitional season. It's a summer in which Mourinho is laying the foundations for future success by building the squad he wants.
Mata must be at the heart of this group. Since joining Chelsea in 2011, the classy leader has continued to assert himself as a vital inclusion in the side. Last season saw his greatest output, as he became the most important player under both Roberto Di Matteo and Rafa Benitez. He is the bridge between two Chelsea eras; the man who will successfully transition Mourinho's old guard into a trophy-winning team of less experienced individuals.
As revealed by Whoscored.com, he was majorly influential in all competitions last season. Mata scored 12 goals and provided 12 assists during the club's run to third-place in the Premier League. Important strikes against Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Manchester United and Everton helped Roman Abramovich's troops to vital points come the end of the year.
Similarly, Mata's single goal and five assists in eight Europa League appearances helped Chelsea claim a second European trophy in two years. His goal and two assists in the 3-1 win over Steaua Bucuresti booked a quarterfinal place with a difficult 3-2 aggregate win. His assist in the quarterfinal first-leg helped Chelsea to a 3-1 win over Rubin Kazan, but in typical fashion, Mata saved his best display for the most important match.
The former Valencia man's two assists saw Chelsea triumph 2-1 over Benfica in the Europa League final. His delicately delivered cross allowed Branislav Ivanovic to coolly head home in the final minutes, providing a moment of ecstasy for the travelling fans. Such a finale couldn't be more apt as a conclusion to Chelsea and Mata's season.
As the club progresses, his importance will continue to grow. Not only is Mata loyal and dedicated to the cause, but he is still to reach his peak. Mourinho must provide him with the platform to do so, building his future Chelsea side around the bearded match winner.
Many players pass through the Stamford Bridge doors, but with Mourinho entering his second term as Blues boss, it is the retention and development of Mata that should become his main priority. The English club have a future legend on their hands, and as Frank Lampard has shown, sticking by a supreme talent provides the way to prolonged success.