Juan Mata has revealed what life is like in the Chelsea dressing room, describing Ashley Cole as ‘one of the funniest’ in the Blues’ squad and David Luiz as a ‘complete player’.
The Chelsea dressing room has been under scrutiny this season amidst more reports of unrest between the players and interim manager Rafa Benitez.
However Mata, speaking to Men’s Health magazine, insists morale at Chelsea is high– and also confirmed his unusual nickname handed to him by his colleagues upon his arrival at Stamford Bridge.
“We have some players who are always joking and trying to bring smiles to the team and I think I’m one of those,” said Mata.
‘My nickname is Jonny Kills because it is the literal translation of my name. It’s quite funny.’
He added of Ashley Cole’s ability on the pitch: ‘I don’t know anyone else who has been able to play over 50 games a season for eight or nine years so consistently,’ said Mata.
‘He’s one of the best left backs in the world and one of the funniest players, always smiling.’
David Luiz has often attracted criticism for his playing style - most notably from former Manchester United right-back Gary Neville who described the Brazilian as a ‘playstation player’ – but Mata had only kind words to say about the former Benfica defender’s ability.
‘David has it all. He’s a very clever player, has quality on the ball, and he’s versatile,’ he said.
‘He can play as a central defender or as a midfielder, as he is doing now. He’s strong and shoots well. He’s the complete player. He’s also the joker. Mad – but in a good way.’
The love-in continued as Mata doled out the praise to Luiz’s defensive colleagues Gary Cahill, Branislav Ivanovic and Ryan Bertrand.
Branislav is built like a soldier,’ he said.
‘He is a natural leader who is mentally and physically strong. He scores a lot of goals for a defender. He never gives up – a natural winner.
Of Cahill, the Spaniard said: ‘A really strong defender; one of the best central defenders in England, I’m sure of that. He calls a lot of decisions and is very important to us. Gary is very humble and almost shy.’
The former Valencia playmaker reserved his final words of praise for Bertrand, saying: ‘He has quality and versatility – he can play at right back, left back or even left wing.
'He’s good on the ball and takes up good positions. He has a bright future.’