Manchester United Meeting Should Remind Chelsea That Juan Mata Is Indispensable
Not only would they have added three exciting talents in Andre Schurrle, Marco van Ginkel and Willian—subject to a work permit hearing on Wednesday—to their squad, but a striker of Rooney's caliber will propel them to sit among the top few in Europe.
Should the Englishman's arrival come at the expense of Juan Mata, however, it's a move that will be tinged by a storm of negativity.
The Mirror's Matt Law has reported that rumors continue to rumble on regarding the Spaniard's future at Chelsea, and it is incredible. In fact, it's nearing on farce.
In his two seasons at Stamford Bridge, the 25-year-old has been voted Player of the Season on each occasion, with last year seeing him excel beyond all expectation.
And following Roberto Di Matteo's departure as manger, the Italian being replaced by Rafa Benitez under a cloud of protest from fans, it was the performances of Mata that held Chelsea together at times during 2012-13.
His 12 Premier League goals alone were worth an equal 12 points, not to mention the assists (again 12) he picked up throughout the league campaign.
Indeed, as Chelsea prepare to face Manchester United at Old Trafford on Monday evening, his performances against the Red Devils last season should stand as a stark reminder of all that he has to offer.
Had it not been for a debatable decision from referee Mark Clattenburg to allow Javier Hernandez's scrappy second-half strike to stand last October, Chelsea would have drawn 2-2 with United in their league meeting at Stamford Bridge.
The performance that day outlined Chelsea's team spirit, clawing their way back from 2-0 down to peg United back, only for Hernandez to score his winner from what appeared to be an offside position.
The driving force behind that Chelsea comeback? Juan Mata, of course.
He scored a wonderful free-kick on the stroke of half-time to give his team hope and was heavily involved in everything the Blues achieved going forward.
It was a similar story in April's FA Cup quarterfinal replay against United at Stamford Bridge. Mata wasn't on the scoresheet this time, though, instead he settled for assisting Demba Ba's acrobatic effort that eventually proved the difference.
We often hear of the importance of Jesper Gronkjaer scoring the winner against Liverpool in Chelsea's Champions League play-off with the Reds in 2003 and Mata's goal against United in their league clash at Old Trafford last term is arguably just as important.
If Chelsea sign Wayne Rooney, should they offload Juan Mata?
United had not long been crowned champions, but that fact meant very little to Chelsea when they met in May, coming away 1-0 winners thanks to a late strike from Mata.
It was worth more to Chelsea fans than mere bragging rights, however. That goal all but secured Champions League football for 2013-14 and had they failed, the Blues would have suffered in more ways than one—notably failing to live off the riches Champions League football brings and which their business model is very much based.
The point is, Mata has given Chelsea so much in his two years in West London. So much so, he should be deemed indispensable to Mourinho's new project.
With or without Rooney, Chelsea can still achieve greatness. Without Mata, it's a different prospect altogether.
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
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