6 Reasons Why Chelsea Should Fear Losing Juan Mata in January
If there was one thing that Andre Villas-Boas got right during his six-month stint with Chelsea, it was to sign a player with the same qualities as Gianfranco Zola.
Ever since the Italian legend left the club in 2003, the supporters had been crying out for a creative maestro able to do things with the ball that seem impossible for other players. Zola was one of them, and out of the blue, Villas-Boas found his successor eight years later.
Being snubbed by Javier Pastore, who joined Paris Saint-Germain for £37 million, was a blessing in disguise for Chelsea as they swooped for Valencia playmaker Juan Mata in a £26 million deal. And almost instantly, the move looked to be a shrewd piece of business.
But the playmaker's future is far from certain amid several attempts by Jose Mourinho to offload the world-class midfielder, and it looks as if a January exit, a near-impossibility at this time last season, is likely.
Today, we evaluate the reasons for why Chelsea should fear his potential departure and do all they can to keep the 25-year-old at Stamford Bridge.
The End of Title Dream
The idea of winning the Premier League title is to have the best team with the strongest squad that play attractive football. Manchester City showed their credentials as title contenders in the 2011-12 season, and sure enough, secured their first Premier League title.
Chelsea went through a similar phase of improvement under Mourinho and dominated between 2004 and 2006. However, whether it was their lack of squad depth or motivation that caused the downfall is irrelevant. What does matter is that the Blues failed to strengthen their side, unlike Manchester United.
Sometimes, and certainly this is the case with Mourinho, strengthening your team can be done by weakening your rivals. The 50-year-old tried to lure Wayne Rooney to Chelsea with the knowledge that having a player of his pedigree would enhance the quality in his squad, which consequently has the opposite effect on the Manchester United team.
Selling Mata would, without question, weaken Chelsea. Sure enough, Oscar and Eden Hazard are extremely talented young players, but they are not experienced enough to carry the burden of being the supply line of creativity. Even Willian, the £30 million summer arrival, cannot be expected to provide goals and assists in the absence of Mata.
If he were to depart in January, there would be no prizes for predicting a slump from the Blues in the second half of the season. Mourinho knows that it could hit his title chances and would be better off keeping him before re-evaluating in the summer.
Mata went on to win the Player of the Year award during his first season at the club, where he won both the Champions League and FA Cup and was an instrumental part in the two competitions. Some said his first season could not be replicated, but he proved them wrong, bettering his goals (12) and assists tallies (18), and inevitably won the award again.
So why has there been speculation that Mata's future has been thrown into doubt because he doesn't fit in Jose Mourinho's plans? Many would argue the team should be built around the best player, and the Spaniard is certainly the most influential player, by some stretch too. But the rumours just won't go away, with some media outlets such as the Daily Mail linking the Spain star with a move to PSG as early as the beginning of this month.
No player can supply exquisite, perfectly weighted passes like Mata does for Chelsea. And it's the frequency of them too. One should remember that assists only count if the player receiving the pass scores the goal, so looking at how many key passes he made (14) or chances he created (91) is more insightful into how important Mata is.
To have a player with his attacking prowess, intelligence and vision in the midfield is a lethal weapon that Chelsea should not, at all costs, be willing to part with.
Mata has always been the key man since he moved to Chelsea, and rightly so, he earned the right to be one of the first names on the teamsheet. But the arrival of Mourinho has certainly changed that.
The attacking midfielder had been given a prolonged relaxation period than the rest of the squad, after a demanding summer schedule, what with his Confederations Cup commitments among other events, and it gave other players the chance to impress.
The likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Oscar and Bertrand Traore had all shown their potential while on tour during preseason, and while Mata's place is not seemingly under threat, the trio's development would have impressed Mourinho.
In addition to that, the summer arrivals of Andre Schurrle and Willian especially would have put some extra pressure on Mata to perform, and choosing to rotate could highlight possessing a lack of faith in his ability, which could eventually lead to him going elsewhere.
The nature of football in the modern age is almost solely based on money, to the extent that even after counting out Manchester United and Manchester City, there are still plenty of teams who could afford to sign Juan Mata from Chelsea.
Not forgetting that the French sides in the mould of PSG and Monaco pose a threat in the transfer market these days, with both clubs each spending over €100 million this summer.
Even Chelsea would find it hard to turn down an offer in the region of £50 million for Mata, and the same goes for the player if he was offered to double his £80,000-a-week salary at another club. The likelihood of a big offer coming in January is extremely low because he would be ineligible to play in the Champions League for the rest of the season, but the interest could certainly arise in the next window.
There aren't too many players who have won the European Championship, the World Cup, Champions League, FA Cup and Europa League by the time they are 25, but Mata is one of them. Undoubtedly, it's not a coincidence, but rather a clear indicator of the influence he has on the teams he plays for.
The only trophies he is yet to win with Chelsea are the League Cup and Premier League, and perhaps that could be a reason to stick around as opposed to leaving.
But after failing to win La Liga with Valencia, Mata could be tempted to move back to his homeland if either of Spanish giants Barcelona or Real Madrid came calling. The lure of winning the league in your native country is something that appeals to any footballer, and it would be difficult for the playmaker to say no if the chance came about.
Rooney Move Likely to Alienate Mata
In some ways, Chelsea's move for Wayne Rooney was ill-advised. Of course, if a player of his calibre is available, then by all means the Blues would feel obliged to make a move for a player they almost signed nine years ago.
But by doing so, they risked alienating current "No. 10" Juan Mata, with the Spaniard probably feeling that the club weren't happy with the manner in which he was performing and wanted to sign a replacement as a result.
However, the deal for Rooney faded after he showed his commitment to the club with a solid performance against Chelsea before the deadline passed, and Mourinho eventually signed Samuel Eto'o instead. If the Portuguese coach were to rekindle his interest for Rooney in January, though, we could see Mata linked with a move away once again.
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