Jose Mourinho does not get the big decisions wrong very often, and one of the biggest he has made since taking over at Chelsea for a second time was to cast fan darling and pundit favourite Juan Mata into the cold.
So cold did Juan’s life become at Chelsea he chose a life at flailing Manchester United under David Moyes and an unknown next boss instead.
That decision saw a pretty penny go in Chelsea’s direction and Mourinho lucky that no matter how much the Stamford Bridge faithful loved Mata, they simply adored him more.
This was not Iker Casillas mark two, Mourinho knew no matter what his decision, his fans in blue would back him. They always did.
Manchester United meanwhile thought they had found the answer to their prayers. The player to stop the rapid decline at Old Trafford.
Well, nope they didn’t and according to most of the media, new manager Louis van Gaal is ready to pack Mata’s bags for him and ship him off for a paltry £20 million once January rolls around.
Quite a fall for the player who won the Player of the Year award for two consecutive years at Chelsea and who was hailed by Rafa Benitez as the key to winning the Europa League.
Perhaps that is the simplest way to explain the issue. Mata is the key to your side if you want to win the Europa League. The Champions League however, not so much.
Yes, he played a part in Chelsea’s run and eventual win of dreams in Munich, but it was nowhere near the level of contribution others like Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard or Ashley Cole made. He even managed to miss his penalty in the shoot-out and a few more earlier in the season when Andre Villas Boas had benched Lampard and handed the spot taking duty over to Mata.
He is good, but not great.
If that was the opinion of one manager, it may not carry so much weight, but sadly for Mata it seems to be the school of thought for Mourinho, LVG and indeed Vicente Del Bosque as well.
Internationally Mata has never really broken through, being more familiar with the La Roja bench than the tiki-taka magic on the field.
No one should forget that two of the greatest, if not the greatest, midfielders of all time occupied those places -Xavi and Andres Iniesta, but you get the feeling that even if they were not available, Del Bosque would still omit Mata.
Mourinho claimed that it was because Mata did not work hard enough – and that is a valid point – but if you are good enough, even Mourinho will overlook the occasional lapse.
Mesut Ozil was case in point during his time at Real Madrid. He may have only lasted 65 minutes every game, but it was every game -always the big games – and mainly from the start. Ozil has utter magic in his locker. Mata just has some sparkles.
It would be harsh to judge his performance under David Moyes, with the United boss out of his depth and the players fully under the impression they were playing for a ticking time bomb, but even under Van Gaal, Mata has failed to really shine.
Eyebrows were raised when Radamel Falcao was purchased on deadline day – and unless he becomes cover for Robin van Persie should the Dutchman need a serious operation, why did Van Gaal want him so badly? How can you play Rooney, RVP and Falcao? The answer is you can’t.
Unless Rooney moves back into the role of a number ten. Mata’s role. And really the only one he can play with maximum effect. He cannot shine shoved out wide and is not gritty enough for a place further back. Ergo, Van Gaal is willing to sell the Spaniard.
Quite what Mata’s confidence will make of this remains to be seen, with his time in England going from that of dreams to the stuff of nightmares.
Well at least if all else fails, Mata can go and ask Rafa Benitez to take him back. If the former Chelsea interim coach still has a job by January that is.
Footyettes. What is it about Mata that makes him very good but simply not great? Let us know your thoughts below or tweet us @LaFootyettes.