No one could have predicted the major casualty of Jose Mourinho’s second coming at Chelsea. Fernando Torres may well have been at the forefront of fan’s minds, or Demba Ba. Not to mention the rather shaky David Luiz or even the never really lived up to his potential Jon Obi Mikel. Juan Mata however was never the name on anyone’s list.
It is however the Spanish International that has been cast out into the cold by the Special One, and whilst temperatures have not dropped to San Iker sub zero yet, it is certainly getting frosty at the Bridge, with Mata increasingly unhappy about the role he is playing within the team.
Mata may have been afforded a run out against Everton on the weekend, but was the first midfielder to be pulled off and replaced with Oscar, just after the hour mark. Certainly not what you would expect with the Blues chasing a goal and Mourinho needing all his best and most trusted players on the field. ‘Trusted’ is something he called Mata, yet the old phrase of actions speak louder than words rings true here.
Mourinho’s actions when it comes to Mata have not been what one would expect for the man dubbed the heartbeat of the Chelsea side and the one who has been lauded by both players and fans, not to mention the media since his arrival from Valencia.
Despite this, rumours have been abound all summer about the fact that Mourinho did not really fancy Mata, and a swap deal with Wayne Rooney, whilst rumoured, was swiftly denied by the club. Mourinho and his staff also noted that Mata was not fully fit, and had played constantly for the last couple of years, what with international tournaments and club commitments, and was at the risk of being burnt out.
That excuse might have washed for the first couple of games, but now we are really starting to get into the season and Mata is still not featuring – either at all or as much as he would like. It has become abundantly clear that Eden Hazard is the chosen one when it comes to Mourinho this season, and both the manager and player himself have admitted they are working towards turning the player into the next Cristiano Ronaldo. Quite if that will work remains to be seen, but it is a further snub for Mata, who has carried Chelsea for the last couple of seasons.
Another player Mourinho seems to favour is the young Brazilian Oscar, who is not only outrageously talented going forward but a very hard worker off the ball – a major problem that Mourinho has with Mata. Oscar not only busts a gut tracking back but is brilliant in trying to regain possession for Chelsea when his teammates lose it.
Take the game against Everton for example – Chelsea were a goal down and needed to get an equaliser at the very least. Mourinho decided to play three at the back – something he is known for when the chips are down, and knew that Oscar would only enhance this formation with his work ethic – not hinder it. That is not to say Mata is lazy, far from it, but some players have that knack built into them, and the number ten simply does not. Under a normal manager that is not a problem – but under Mourinho is becomes a huge issue.
If you look at his other successful sides – both at Inter Milan and Real Madrid, the playmakers and attacking midfielders were expected to put in a huge amount of effort off the ball – Wesley Sneijder and Mesut Ozil both did this. In Chelsea 1.0 it was the failure of Joe Cole to conform to this way of thinking that saw the player cast out into the cold.
Mourinho’s choice in opting to leave Mata out of his starting eleven may seem mad, but as we all know, more often than not there is a method to his madness. As Mourinho himself stated earlier in the week, all decisions are taken for a reason, and leaving Mata out for now could well be part of a master plan to inspire the player and kick him up that notch further.
World Cup year is in full swing, and Mata knows that he simply has to be playing for his club and impressing to have a chance of featuring for La Roja in Brazil.
You get the feeling that it will be make or break for Mata in the run up to January, and should he fail to convince Mourinho he is the Special Juan, one thing is for sure, there will be no shortage of takers for the midfielder.
Will Mata be forced to leave Chelsea? Let us know your thoughts below or tweet us @LaFootyettes.