Juan Mata has been a beloved Chelsea player for two years and has won Chelsea's Player of the Year award two years in a row. He has been a vital cog in Chelsea's attack and has done so despite the merry-go-round of managers that have come through Stamford Bridge during his short time there. However, under Jose Mourinho, he has seen his playing time plummet in favor of Oscar. Mourinho has preferred Oscar over Mata because Oscar works hard on both ends of the pitch. Mata is a very weak defender and therefore is a liability whenever he is on the pitch for Chelsea. Oscar, on the other hand, has made the second most tackles out of all Chelsea midfielders. Ramires is the only midfielder that has more. What makes this even more impressive, is that Oscar plays in the traditional "#10" role. Mourinho loves players that can do everything, attack with great intent, and trackback and defend when need be. Mata does not do this. Oscar does this emphatically. Eden Hazard used to be weak in this department as well. Mourinho has transformed him into a complete player and now Hazard tracks back and does a fantastic job at it.
Most people are under the impression that Mata has barely played this season under Mourinho. That is simply not true. Mata has logged just over 1,100 minutes and has appeared in 13 out of 22 Premier League matches. In the past two games, Mata was left on the bench and did not make an appearance as a substitute. We live in a world nowadays where we have very short memories. Therefore, since Mata has not been seen on the pitch for the past two games, panic ensues and people start saying stuff like "Mata never plays!".
The emergence of Willian has also put a damper on Mata's regular playing time. Mata is versatile, he can play in Oscar's role, but he is also effective playing on the right wing. Unfortunately for Mata, Willian has impressed on the right wing not only in attack, but also in his defending and tracking back. The trio of Hazard, Oscar and Willian are finally gelling together and Mourinho has found his favored starting line up. All three of those players are fantastic going forward, but what makes Mourinho love them is their ability to defend. If Mata could add that to his repertoire, we would not be in this position.
Let's take a look at what Mata has accomplished while at Chelsea. We'll start with last season.
In all competitions (not including international duty with Spain), Juan Mata scored 19 goals and had 35 assists.
In the Premier League alone: 11 goals and 17 assists in 35 matches.
In all competitions: 12 goals, 20 assists.
In the Premier League: 6 goals, 13 assists in 34 matches.
Let's get one thing straight, Mata is an exceptional talent. Anyone who has watched him play can tell you that. Any Chelsea fan will especially tell you that and express their undying love for the one they call "Johnny Kills". Unfortunately for him and Chelsea fans alike, he simply did not fit into Jose Mourinho's plans. It all came down to one fundamental thing: defending.
The amount Chelsea will receive from this transfer is substantial. Anywhere between £35-42 million is what is being thrown around in the papers. One must assume, Chelsea will immediately re-invest that money and purchase at least one or two more players. Chelsea will have a very congested schedule coming up with Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup matches still to go, having Mata available to give Oscar or Willian a rest would have been the ideal scenario. With Mata gone, Schurrle is the only attacking player available that can spell one of those players and that is simply not enough depth. Chelsea could decide to recall Victor Moses from his loan at Liverpool since he's been rotting on the bench over there, but even then, reinforcements seems to be a necessity in order to keep pace with the elite teams. As I am writing this, I am getting word that Chelsea are expressing interest in Basel midfielder Mohamed Salah, the player who terrorized the Blues in Champions League play this season as well as the Europa League last season.
At the start of the season, Juan Mata was priced at £10.5, and rightfully so. The back-to-back player of the year deserves to be one of the most expensive midfielders in fantasy. Due to his lack of playing time and dip in form, Mata is now down to £9.4. That still seems pretty expensive, especially since he has only put up 30 fantasy points so far this season. However, it is pretty hard to lower the price of someone of Mata's quality drastically. This price could very well end up being a bargain should United successfully complete the transfer and we start seeing Mata play regularly once again. Obviously, until we receive official notice, Mata should not be on your team. If and when we get official notice, I would still hold off on purchasing Mata until we see how Moyes deploys him. Eventually, I do believe Mata will be a top fantasy performer and will become a must-own player for the final 15 games of the season.
Should this transfer actually go through as it is being widely reported, Manchester United will be receiving one of the best attacking players in the world. However, this Manchester United team has A LOT of problems. Two of their best goal scorers are injured, their defense is in shambles, and they do not have anything close to a competent midfield. Therefore, adding Juan Mata, an exceptional talent in attack but a terrible defender, leaves a team that is struggling in that regard even more vulnerable. Will this make United a better team? Yes, of course. Will it automatically catapult them into the top 4? Absolutely not. They need more reinforcements, they have a lot of glaring holes that need to be addressed. The addition of Mata is an injection of creativity that they desperately need, but that alone will not be enough to bring them back to the feared entity they were for so long.
As a Chelsea fan, I fell in love with Juan Mata just like every other Chelsea fan. Hearing these reports has been hurtful and even moreso hearing that Mata actually ASKED to leave the club. It is completely understandable, given the fact that he lost his starting place that he had kept for the past two years, coupled with it being a World Cup year, playing time is essential if he wants a chance at making the national team roster. However, to go to a rival club, one that is hated immensely by the fan base, is like getting punched in the jejunum.
What are your thoughts on this deal? Who should Chelsea target with the money they receive from this?
*pricing used is for Official EPL site, not Yahoo.