Juan Mata deserves Spain starting berth
Opinion: Chelsea star Juan Mata deserves a starting place in the Spain side after another impressive season for the Blues
The Spain team currently possess its golden generation of footballers. And no region is stronger than its magical midfield.
With the likes of Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and David Silva still weaving their magic it is easy for a good player to not get noticed by the coach. Yet, one player who has repeatedly shown that he can match up to these big gun, or even better them, is Chelsea's Juan Mata.
He has repeatedly performed well for his club, but has never quite been given the chance to impress for his country. Here's why Vicente del Bosque should seriously consider giving Mata a shot.
The former Valencia man has been in sublime form this season, and was voted Chelsea's Player of the Year for the last two seasons.
He has been the heart and soul of Rafael Benitez's team and has often managed to completely outshine fellow stars such as Eden Hazard and Oscar, who have themselves been in great form this season. Such has been his effect on the team that in hindsight the £24 million that Chelsea shelled out in bringing the Spaniard to London has become a huge bargain with the attacker not only being the team's best performer throughout the last two seasons, but (along with Petr Cech and Ashley Cole) also one of its most consistent as well.
The choice to select an attacking midfield trio from among Mata, David Silva, Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta, Pedro and Santi Cazorla is a tough ask as every one of those players can stake a claim to that starting spot. But this year, a compelling body of evidence has emerged which proves that Mata is probably the best suited to start among these players, along with Iniesta.
A look at the statistics alone is enough to prove why he is ahead of all his current competitors. Mata totalled 32 assists in all competitions. He also had the highest number of assists in the Premier League and the second most number of goals from midfield, behind only teammate Frank Lampard. Among the other competitors for a spot in the Spanish lineup, only Iniesta has given more assists in the league than Mata.
But Mata still pips the Barcelona man in terms of assists in all competitions - a fact that is even more impressive when you consider the fact that Mata supplied an ailing frontline whereas Iniesta supplied the likes of Lionel Messi, Pedro and David Villa. He also has more goals than any of them with his closest competitor Cesc Fabregas having scored 10 for Barcelona.
Also, Mata has created a chance every 29 minutes that he plays - behind only David Silva in the league. Mata's importance to the west London club this season is underlined by the fact that they have failed to win every single game in which the Spaniard did not start for them in the league. The sheer consistency of Mata's brilliance has been so astounding that both Roberto di Matteo and Rafael Benitez decided to build their team around the pint sized midfielder.
Another impressive factor that works in Mata's favour is that he also has a penchant for performing when it is most important - with him scoring goals at crucial times against Manchester United and Tottenham amongst others. Mata was also the supreme provider for Chelsea in their Europa League final victory over Benfica, providing assists for both the goals. Another stat that has been less noticed has been the work rate of the Spaniard - with nobody covering more ground for Chelsea in the last campaign than Juan Mata.
Capable of slotting in seamlessly into any position and any team, Mata has been repeatedly ignored by Vicente del Bosque. Yes - he has been called up to almost every Spain squad over the past four years, but he has never been given the chance to shine. Whenever he has though, he has never disappointed. Del Bosque bought him on for a total of 13 minutes during Euro 2012, and he grabbed himself a goal within that short time period, albeit against a weakened 10 man Italy.
By the sheer weight of performances this season, Mata has once again staked his claim to the spot, having risen above all his esteemed competitors this season. Plain and simple - Mata's the best Spain's got at the moment.
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