Juan Mata Leaving Chelsea Makes Sense
...and deep down you already know it.
It's an interesting proposition saying the 2012 and 2013 Chelsea Player of the Year should seek greener pastures elsewhere, but for both club and player -- it looks the ideal scenario. Juan Mata seems a classy individual, who isn't going to make waves by saying anything controversial about squad selections, etc.; but when substituted after just 55 minutes against Southampton Wednesday evening, the Spaniard's histrionics on the bench spoke volumes about the frustrations he's incurred under new management.
Mgr. José Mourinho has opened the door, both literally and figuratively, to players should they wish an exit. That being said, he hasn't guaranteed a move, rather promised a chat about what's best for both parties involved. Mata is under contract until Summer 2016, so the options to keep or sell the midfielder on are well within Chelsea's legal purview.
If there's any area on the pitch Mourinho could trim back, midfield's the place -- especially in an attacking capacity. Juan Mata is blessed with bags talent. His supreme vision, skill, and touch are all traits world-class players carry, what he isn't blessed with is top-tier pace and the natural want to defend. His characteristics are developed to play behind a front man, find passes, link the play and be on call to test the keeper as need be. The Portuguese boss sees Oscar as Chelsea's best player in his interpretation of the "number 10"; which leaves Mata on the wing, chasing full-backs -- essentially pulling him from the role which he’s best suited for.
Of the other attacking midfielders in Chelsea's first team -- Willian, André Schürrle, Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard are all natural wingers; and as such, we find Mata on the relative periphery. In fairness, Mourinho has attempted to play the Spanish international in a variety of positions; and Mata has shown positive signs of adapting to the new style being installed, but as previously hinted, for every midfield job offered by Jose Mourinho, Juan Mata is simply second-best at the moment.
The Chelsea manager's decision to remove Mata (and Schürrle) before the hour mark on New Year's Day was proven to be the correct decision; as Oscar and Willian were the difference in the Blues' 3-0 away win against the Saints. Oscar creating two goals and finding the score-sheet only further justified the switch. Nevertheless, it's tough watching a player (the one who assisted Didier Drogba's equalizing header in the 2012 Champions League final) writhing in frustration on the substitute's bench, because we all know the quality he possesses.
Juan Mata leaving Chelsea is as sad as the end of "Marley & Me;" we don't want to see the relationship end, but it’s truly the best option. The links with Paris Saint-German, Real Madrid and Barcelona are flooding the Internet, as well they should be. Purchased from Valencia for £23.5M in 2011 and presently estimated at *£39.5M, the price tag would have to be in the neighborhood of +£30M to get Chelsea's Holy Emperor, Roman Abramovich, to bite.
The supposed link with Manchester United is non-sense. The reason Wayne Rooney isn't playing in London will be the same reason Mata won't play in Manchester -- you don't sell to rivals, no matter how porous you may think they are. The 26 year-old World Cup winner would surly be a vain in the side of all Premier League teams, so the prospect of selling only makes sense in the context of continental outfits.
Paris Saint-German looks the best option for both teams and Mata respectively. The allure to play in Spain would definitely be tempting, but he'd run into the same problems assuredly; as Madrid and Barça aren't exactly starved for midfield talent either. The French champions play a style more similar to the one Mata enjoyed in his first season with Chelsea; a slower, more direct approach, which would allow for his talents to be fully exhausted. The likes of Ibrahimovic, Cavani and Levezzi are fully developed as players, making the transition a bit easier. At Chelsea, Hazard, Oscar, Schürrle, and the on-loan Romelu Lukaku, are all under the age of 23.
[Not to mention, PSG's ownership see +£30M as relatively cheap.]
Another positive would be the development of Chelsea's young wing players. Juan Mata is going to play. Whether in his favoured position or not, he's played in 13 out of 20 Premier League matches this season -- by comparison Willian has played in 11, and De Bruyne has played only three. Mata's departure would pave the way for loanees Victor Moses and Christian Atsu, as well as new signing Bertrand Traoré -- all of whom are more adept to playing on the wing -- to get a proper look in.
To be honest, Mata needs a change of scenery as well. He should be an automatic choice for the 2014 World Cup -- the best/only way for him to state his case would be playing on a weekly basis; which is something Chelsea can’t offer.
Furthermore, Chelsea need capital to avoid Financial Fair Play reprimands. It was reported Chelsea lost £50M over the past year, and with the new rules in full effect that number will have to dramatically decrease over the coming years. Add that with the Blues’ search for both striking and holding-midfield reinforcements, and it makes the sale of Juan Mata just what Chelsea need to right the ship.
You discover fairly quickly, they all won't/can’t be Frank Lampard.
If any midfielder leaving the club were to tug at heartstrings, it would be the suggested exodus of Michael Essien. His arrival from Olympique de Lyon in 2005 was an epic mess, but the near £25M fee was well worth the price. Affectionately labeled "The Bison," the Ghanaian international was arguably the best midfielder in the Premier League for the three years preceding his 2008 ACL injury. The wonder-goals against Arsenal in 2006 (which kept José Mourinho's Stamford-Bridge-unbeaten-streak alive) and Barcelona in 2009 (which should have sent Chelsea to the Champions League final) are moments all Chelsea supporters will cherish.
Chelsea would be wise to learn from previous years. The likes of Joe Cole, Michael Ballack, Juliano Belletti, Florent Malouda, Salomon Kalou, José Bosingwa and Didier Drogba all left as free transfers; it would be wise to sell players in their prime who are (at the very least) frustrated, so as to develop a side more reflective of the new manager, without exceeding UEFA FFP regulations.
Stability at the club has played a factor no doubt; but José Mourinho has stated his intention to remain in West London for at least the next decade, so a transition starting this month would set the wheels in motion for the Chelsea of years to come.
*Estimated by Transfermarkt on 2 June 2013.
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