Chelsea: Keeping Juan Mata Will Be Jose Mourinho's Best Move This Summer

Garry Hayes@@garryhayesFeatured Columnist IVNovember 18, 2016

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 19:  Juan Mata of Chelsea celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Everton at Stamford Bridge on May 19, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

With all the talk of big summer signings at Chelsea, there has been a danger of neglecting the stars the Blues already have within their ranks.

The media has reported on marquee names arriving almost every week. For instance, The Express hinted at Edinson Cavani joining from Napoli, while Radamel Falcao was strongly linked to a move from Atletico Madrid by The Mirror.

Now we're faced with Chelsea's ongoing pursuit of Wayne Rooney. According to BBC Sport's Ben Smith, the club had a second bid for Rooney rejected this week.

Indeed, at least where rumors are concerned, it's already been a long summer that has bridged the gap between 2012-13 and the upcoming Premier League campaign.

Of all those associated with the club, however, the most surprising—and equally shocking—came courtesy of ESPN, which reported that Jose Mourinho was apparently willing to offload Juan Mata—the man voted the club's Player of the Year in consecutive seasons since joining in 2011.

The Daily Mail reported Arsenal's intent to bring the Spaniard to the Emirates Stadium in July and it was also claimed he could be used as makeweight in Chelsea's bid for Rooney, which the club strongly denied in the Daily Telegraph.

It's been an unsettling time for the player, his manager and Blues fans alike, although Mourinho was quick to deny his No. 10's future was ever in doubt.

"I am not going to contact them based on news that are not true, and that they know that is not true because I have told them they are very important for me," he told The Guardian in July. "How can I change that two days later because of a news [story]? So no, no contact with them."

Did Mourinho ever doubt how Mata would fit into his Chelsea team next season? We'll never know, but either way, his decision to retain his services will prove more rewarding than any signing Chelsea will make this summer.

Just take the stats, for example, which speak for themselves. Mata was directly involved in an incredible 47 goals for his club last term, scoring 19 to go along with 28 assists.

In the Premier League, his assists tally was unrivalled by any other player while his goals alone proved the difference in vital victories against Manchester United at Old Trafford, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Norwich City.

Without those 12 points Mata's goals clocked up, Chelsea surely wouldn't be in the Champions League this year. But there's so much more about him that makes him vital to Chelsea being successful.

In Mourinho's inaugural tenure as Blues boss, Chelsea looked to Frank Lampard and John Terry in order to win games. Now, when their backs are pressed firmly to the wall, it's Mata who often carries them. He may not wear the armband, but he's their leader—almost an emblematic artifact for what Chelsea are becoming.

Reasons of business aside, it's no wonder Manchester United continue to play hard ball over Rooney's proposed move to West London. The thought alone of the Englishman leading the Chelsea attack, with Mata behind providing him with assist after assist, must be keeping David Moyes awake at night.

"We’re really looking forward to starting the season with him [Mourinho] and we are all excited about it," Mata recently commented in Metro.

"Jose did a really great job here a few years ago and I think that we can do it again."

With their Spanish maestro on the team, Chelsea's chances of doing just that are looking a whole lot better.


Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @garryhayes.