Juan Mata and David Luiz Chelsea Exits Ruled Out by Napoli Boss Rafa Benitez

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistJanuary 6, 2014

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 01:  Juan Mata (L) of Chelsea whispers to Interim Manager Rafa Benitez after he is asked questions about Benitez's management and future of the club during the Chelsea Press Conference at Stamford Bridge on May 1, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
Christopher Lee/Getty Images

Having held some recent experience managing the players himself, Rafa Benitez has labelled it "unthinkable" that Chelsea will cash in on Juan Mata or David Luiz this month, according to ESPN FC's Ben Gladwell.

Both players have been linked with exits from Stamford Bridge after finding their first-team involvement limited since Jose Mourinho took over as manager at Stamford Bridge.

SWINDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24:  Juan Mata (L) and David Luiz of Chelsea organise a free kick during the Capital One Cup Third Round match between Swindon Town and Chelsea at County Ground on September 24, 2013 in Swindon, England.  (Photo by Michael Ste
Michael Steele/Getty Images

Benitez, now at the helm of Napoli, reaffirmed in a news conference (per Gladwell) the widespread notion that, while his side need to strengthen this winter, the January period makes it all the tougher to do so:

The January transfer window is difficult. For example, it's not easy to find players who are better than [Federico] Fernandez and [Miguel] Britos. It's unthinkable that Chelsea, who have to win the Premier League and the Champions League, would deprive themselves of David Luiz or Mata.

The same goes for Mascherano, who will not be leaving Barcelona. We need to buy big players who fit in well with our style. We're making a lot of moves, putting in our bids, but they are not always accepted.

Benitez was appointed as Walter Mazzarri's successor at the Stadio San Paolo last summer but, prior to that, spent seven months in charge of Chelsea on an interim basis.

VERONA, ITALY - AUGUST 31:  Head coach of Napoli Rafa Benitez looks on during the Serie A match between AC Chievo Verona and SSC Napoli at Stadio Marc'Antonio Bentegodi on August 31, 2013 in Verona, Italy.  (Photo by Dino Panato/Getty Images)
Dino Panato/Getty Images

Having held that relationship with the players, it may be that Benitez has an advantage over other managers when it comes to capturing the due, but he has distanced himself from signing either of his former charges.

Last week, beIN Sport reported that Barcelona were keen on making a move for Chelsea's out-of-favour defender, Luiz, after failing in a bid last summer:

Between them, Mata and Luiz have started in just 19 of a combined possible 40 Premier League matches this term, although the Brazilian centre-back has been injured for portions of this season.

That being said, even when fit, Luiz has found himself sitting out in favour of a John Terry partnership alongside Gary Cahill, whereas Mata has sat portions of the campaign on the bench due to Mourinho's preference of fielding Oscar in a central attacking midfield role.

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 18: David Luiz of Chelsea watches from the sidelines with Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Hull City at Stamford Bridge on August 18, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Ri
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Regardless, the current Chelsea chief is no fan of the thought that Mata might leave, either. Speaking ahead of the Blues' 2-0 FA Cup win over Derby County on Sunday, Mourinho was quoted voicing his admiration of the Spaniard, adding that it "hurts" to omit him from his line-up, per The Telegraph's Jonathan Liew:

I try to do my job forgetting that I am a soft heart and pretending that I am a hard heart. With decisions I have to make, many times it hurts me, many times it hurts him. But the best way to do my job is to think that the team is more important than any player. When I have to make decisions, I always try to be a cold one, icy, analysing the situation and trying to make the best decision for the team. But yes, it hurts me.

The Portuguese is, of course, correct in his assessment that no one player is bigger than a club, but Mata's lack of playing time has nonetheless been a shock after the 25-year-old won back-to-back Chelsea Player of the Year awards.

Benitez's Napoli aren't the only club being linked with the pair. The Mirror's Richard Beech recently reported that Bayern Munich had joined in the race to sign Luiz, while Jeremy Wilson of The Telegraph writes that Paris Saint-Germain are at the front of the queue to recruit Mata.

The Guardian's Daniel Taylor, though, says any prospects of the Spanish international jumping ship to Manchester United don't appear to be strong:

Chelsea are third in the Premier League and continue to compete in the FA Cup and Champions League, with deep squad reserves set to play a leading hand in whether any success can come from those campaigns.

In a way, it's a major positive that Chelsea can afford to bench such talent and still achieve their goals, albeit at the cost of unsettling those who miss out.

Benitez's comments would serve to vindicate the fact that the west London outfit will at least hang on to both stars until the summer, with a treacherous five months lying ahead.

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