On the face of things, it’s immediately apparent how the ‘Mata to Man Utd’ rumoured transfer clearly benefits everybody but Chelsea. David Moyes and his side get one of Europe’s finest/most devastatingly effectively playmakers and simultaneously a big-name arrival to boost squad and supporter morale. Juan himself gets a move away from the club, where it has become clear he has no future as an important player; and also an opportunity to be the central linchpin in a side undergoing an extensive and expensive transitional phase. Meanwhile, Chelsea will simply have lost the most talented player in their squad to a struggling rival and unless the money can be spent quickly on a more apposite, more or less equally talented player (of which there is currently no sign of happening), then we head into the second and crucial part of our season with a significantly weakened 1st team.
Once you start to look deeper into the situation however, you begin to realise that this deal makes even less sense than you thought – and for all parties involved! Firstly, £40m is a serious amount of money and though Mata’s talent and Moyes’ desperate need for a signing may justify it, the Scot will no doubt have to prepare himself for the question, why he has spent such a huge portion of funds strengthening arguably the only position at the club that doesn’t need strengthening? Even Mata’s biggest fans at Chelsea must be prepared to concede, the Spaniard is only worth £40m as a #10, and with Wayne Rooney the (you would have thought) unmovable occupant of that position and also the horribly underused Shinji Kagawa at the club, just where Mata will play is entirely unobvious. Initially I presume he would play on the right, instantaneously becoming the most atypical Man Utd winger to play for the club in decades.
You could argue it makes sense for a man in Moyes’ situation to just get the talent in now and worry about formation later, at least he will be seen to have done something productive in the transfer market, whilst on paper, signing the man who was probably the league’s best player of the previous season can hardly ever seem like a bad idea. When Rooney returns however to play a central role and Mata is coming in off the right, Moyes will have no right to complain at the Spaniard for not working hard or not tracking back, as is typically expected of a Man Utd winger, with those deficiencies the sole reason the player was made available to purchase in the first place. And if Mata is played centrally and it’s Rooney who’s shunted out of position, the chances of the Englishman staying beyond the season will immediately be questioned – as if there wasn’t enough speculation already.
From Chelsea’s perspective now, if I could ask Jose Mourinho one question at his next press conference it would be this – ‘Atletico Madrid are said to be interested in Mata and have reportedly offered to take him on loan for 6 months. We’re on good terms with Atletico, having given them the one of the best goalkeepers in the world for three straight years and now they are in possession of a 25 year old centre forward with 23 goals in 23 games this season. A centre forward who is pretty much unrivalled in terms of work rate making him, you would have thought, the perfect striker for this team Mourinho is building. Why on earth would you rather sell Mata to Premier League rival, than send him to Spain and procure a word-class forward at the same time’? – I think this is a very good question.
But, ultimately it has to be conceded, £40m for a player who is ‘surplus to requirements’ is A LOT of money and it could be a long time before we see that amount of money offered for a benched player again. The deal would make Mata the 10th most expensive player in history –and the nine players above him you can bet were most certainly playing every week at their former clubs.
There’s no point denying it, seeing Mata in red would hurt I expect 99% of the fan base. Last season he played the most beautifully efficient and mercurial football I’ve ever seen in a Chelsea shirt – he was wonderful. However, the player of course deserves to play every week, football fans (including ourselves) deserve to see him play every week and if we are to commit ourselves completely (as I believe we should) to the direction in which Mourinho is taking this Chelsea team, then we have to graciously concede the days of us being able to offer Juan the platform he needs to produce the stunning football for which he is universally admired, are over.
Finally, it’s worth taking note of the fact that at no point has Mata ever complained or asked for a transfer and in two and a half years, has been a singularly outstanding professional, achieving the impossible at times in making Chelsea almost ‘likeable’ to rival fans. If he leaves this window then he is owed nothing but the very best wishes from all Chelsea fans. Jose, we hope you know what you’re doing.