Juan Mata has said an emotional goodbye to Chelsea fans following his £37 million switch to Manchester United in an open letter on his personal website.
The Spaniard also conceded that he had planned to stay with the Blues for a 'long time' before it became apparent that he wouldn't get regular first-team football under boss Jose Mourinho.
Mata became Manchester United's most expensive player ever when he completed his switch to Old Trafford yesterday - and is expected to make his debut for the club when they take on Cardiff on Tuesday.
The former Valencia man posted the letter on his website yesterday under the title: ""I never forget: thanks, Chelsea!" and admitted his decision to move from Stamford Bridge was one of the 'most important' he's ever made.
He wrote: "This letter is written from my heart, and first of all I would like to say that I will never forget all the affection given to me by the Chelsea fans. From the very first day until the last. With your support and affection I have grown up as a player and I have had an amazing time both on and off the pitch. I will always feel the gratitude towards you. Always. No words are enough to give back all the things I have received.
"There has been plenty of good moments: the FA Cup, my first trophy as a Blue; the immense happiness of winning titles for the first time in the club's history, such as that magical Champions League night in Munich and the Europa League... On the other hand, I have experienced some complicated situations from a personal point of view, mainly during the last six months.
"Every message I got through the social media, every nice word you have said to me on the street, and of course, your support in the stadium, has made me feel incredibly proud of the Chelsea fans; you deserve a team like the one you've got, with so many fantastic players.
"I won't forget the faith you put in me when I was given the player of the year award the last two seasons. I feel really proud and I will never forget those nights.
"Thank you so much for the way you have treated me, you have been unbelievable. I hope you understand that after going through a complicated and, for me, new situation in the last few months."
The 25-year-old lost his place in the Chelsea starting line-up following the arrival of Jose Mourinho, who preferred to deploy Brazilian Oscar in Mata's role behind the striker.
Had he not been displaced from the Chelsea starting lineup, Mata concedes that he would not have left to join Manchester United.
"I believe this is the best choice in order to carry on with my football career and to keep enjoying this sport. Before last summer, my intention was to stay here for a long time; as long as the club wanted me to, and to keep winning trophies for Chelsea FC," he continued.
"This is how happy I was in the club and in the city. However, as you all know, things changed after the preseason. From feeling like an important player, I started to experience some difficult situations and I felt unable to help the team to the extent that I wanted and was used to. Obviously, I fully respect the circumstances.
"Football is a team sport and it's not easy to play regularly in such a good squad. In sports you may win or lose, but the most important thing is to give everything. I hope you know and feel that I have always done so. In every game, in every training session, without exception.
"I have always tried my best for the club. I would like to emphasise the affection, admiration and respect that I've had for my former team mates since the first day. I want to thank the captains for their help and understanding at all times. They made me feel comfortable when I
arrived and they have supported me throughout the difficult times this season.
"I thank all my former team mates for these two and a half years and I wish them the best, personally and professionally, for the future. Of course I have been closer to some of them, but the most important thing is that my years in Chelsea have left me with great friends.
"Friends forever, football rivalries aside. I also want to highlight the day-to-day job of every member of the Chelsea staff: medical team, kit men, staff at Cobham and Stamford Bridge, media and marketing department, Chelsea TV team... All of them are very important in making this club a great one.
"Thank you for your treatment and your efforts to make the life of the players easier. Furthermore, thanks to every manager I have had the pleasure to work with during my time here. They have all been a big help for my progression as a player. I have always respected their decisions, whatever they were; they made me more mature and a stronger
Chelsea are close to sealing a deal for Basel forward Mohamed Salah as Mata's replacement.
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