It’s likely with a unenvious degree of relief that Juan Mata can say he will be turning out for Manchester United when they play Cardiff City next Tuesday.
For all the Spaniard’s proven brilliance, unmatched guile and first-class pedigree he was unable to convince Jose Mourinho that he was able to offer a similar influence to that of Oscar, Andre Schurrle, Eden Hazard or Willian and subsequently he was always going to be better served moving on to a team more appreciative of his talents.
However amidst all the nods of approval and the well wishers backing Mata to succeed at Old Trafford there appears to be an already growing number of people who are ready to forget the frustrating situation that burdened his last few months at Chelsea, despite him being crowned their Player of the Year two times running.
The proof? Jose Mourinho has moved to replace Mata already, with none other than Liverpool target, and FC Basel winger, Mohamed Salah.
Reports suggest that the Blues have agreed a deal for the Egyptian winger, which will unduly be met with appraisal by supporters keen to see the next big thing come to Stamford Bridge. So as fans of the west London outfit no doubt rejoice over the capture of the 21-year-old let me be amongst the first to state that I think it’s a pointless transfer.
First of let us start with a simple fact that very few will be able to reasonably contend; Salah is not as good as Juan Mata. The relevance of this point can be found in the idea that if the man Chelsea have just sold was deemed surplus to requirements at the Bridge then there is little hope of the Basel star amounting to much more than a direct replacement who will fill the void he left on the substitutes bench.
Many would have you believe that Salah is an impressive talent given his age, a notion that I would be inclined to agree on, but is he going to do what Mata couldn’t and break up the triumvirate of Oscar, Eden Hazard and Andre Schurrle? The more logically based thinkers amongst you would probably lean towards no.
Primarily used as an attacking midfielder Salah will enter the Chelsea squad at a time when those competing for his position will be at an all-time high.
Not only do they have the aforementioned trio but there’s also the young Marco van Ginkel on the books, summer import Willian and the likes of Frank Lampard, new-boy Nemanja Matic and Ramires further back. Unless Mourinho’s side are ravaged by one of the worst injury bouts the club has ever witnessed there isn’t much of a case to be made for their new arrival getting regular playing time in that midfield.
Clutching at straws you could say that Chelsea’s enigmatic boss, ever masterful when it comes to manoeuvring situations to his advantage, has engineered Salah’s arrival as a way of keeping him away from Liverpool. The Reds were thought to have been hot on the heels of the Egyptian, but even then they are unlikely to be of concern to Mourinho when it comes to challenging for the Premier League title.
Moreover, with Liverpool in mind, you have to question the motivation of Salah himself. Dispelling the notion that he’s been blinded by his own ambition, what reason is there to suggest that his switch to Chelsea will allow him to develop as a player when his game-time is likely to be far more limited than it would have been at Anfield?
For me this transfer strikes as yet another case of Chelsea flexing needless financial muscle in an attempt to horde players who could be of use to other Premier League teams. If that is the case then all is fair in love and war as they say. Aside from that however, Salah's move doesn't cry out saviour so much as place him in contention to become the next in a long line of players who have moved to Chelsea with high hopes only to fall dramatically short of the grade.