If Manchester United’s club-record signing Juan Mata misses out on the 2014 World Cup finals, he will only have one person to blame: not himself, not David Moyes, but Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho.
The Portuguese coach destroyed Mata’s Chelsea career on his return to west London.
One minute Mata was the king of Stamford Bridge, having been crowned the club’s Player of the Year in back-to-back seasons.
And the next, he found himself relegated to the substitutes’ bench. His ability and work-rate called into question by Mourinho, who once again proved what a divisive and ruthless coach he is.
Had any other manager attempted to do to Mata what Mourinho did earlier this season - freeze him out of the team and then sell him to a rival club - there would have been outrage from the Blues’ supporters, while Roman Abramovich would have blocked the move in any case - before promptly issuing the coach with his P45.
But because it was the untouchable Mourinho, who can do no wrong in the eyes of any Chelsea fan, Mata’s departure to, of all places, Old Trafford was simply allowed to happen.
Few even batted an eyelid when, this time last year, the mere suggestion of Mata being sold to Manchester United in 12 months’ time would have led concerned friends to ring for professional help on your behalf.
Mata didn’t really want to leave Chelsea. He had enjoyed the best two years of his career at Stamford Bridge, the company of his teammates and loved living in London.
But, with the 2014 World Cup finals edging ever closer, Mata had no choice but to accept David Moyes’ offer to join the reigning Premier League champions.
It’s no surprise that Manchester United have yet to see the very best of Mata.
For starters, the diminutive playmaker has only played five matches for his new employers, and it obviously takes time to settle and bed in at a new club.
The fact that the Red Devils are suffering their worst season of the Premier League era has hardly helped matters - but we must also remember that Mata’s confidence was affected after his ability was called into question by Mourinho, while spending so much time on the bench meant he arrived in January short on match fitness.
Spain coach Vicente del Bosque has recognised that Mata is not at the peak of his powers right now, hence his decision to omit him from his squad to face Italy on Wednesday.
And, sadly for Mata, his chances of making it into the Spain squad - the squad with more competition for places than any other in international football - for this summer’s World Cup now hang by a thread.
Unless Mata can single-handedly drag Manchester United to a top-four finish between now and the end of the season, it seems unlikely that Mata will be in Brazil this summer.
That would be a travesty - and if Mata felt bitter towards Mourinho, who could blame him?