Mata more than a footballer


Juan Mata is not your typical £23.5million footballer. The Spanish midfielder is currently studying for two degrees at a university in Madrid while he plays for Chelsea.

His nimble mind seems as beautifully balanced as his body - for the 23-year-old has taken the Premier League by storm since his arrival in west London last summer - turning in a number of intelligent, and eye-catching performances.

Less than a year after making the move from his boyhood club Valencia, Mata is already fluent in English, and has made a seamless transition to life in the hustle and bustle of the capital.

"For me, this move was an important change in my life as a person as much as a player," he explained in an interview with the Daily Mail. "I thought it would be harder. It's not too cold, not snowing,"

"It was an opportunity to know another city, another country, another culture and another language. I'm trying to know every part of London, to improve my English and enjoy the football."

Mata has certainly been one of the few positives to be drawn from Chelsea's season so far, their inconsistent form has cast Andre Villas-Boas' side adrift in the Premier League title race.

But it's not all doom and gloom for the Blues, with a return to both Champions League and FA Cup action in the next fortnight, maintaining the players' focus for some form of trophy return in 2011-12 - albeit not the domestic crown.

The talented playmaker is no stranger to the profligacy that football can sometimes serve up - after Mata left home at the tender age of 15 he looked to follow in his father's footsteps and become a professional footballer - he signed for La Liga giants Real Madrid.

But the young Spaniard struggled to settle at the Bernabeu, and failed to make his presence felt in a youth academy that boasted the likes of Jose Callejon, Esteban Granero, Alvaro Negredo, Javi Garcia and Roberto Soldado among other up and coming stars of the future.

At 19, Mata moved on again, this time to the Mestalla with Valencia - a period he describes as his Masters in football - before earning his big money move to Stamford Bridge four years later.

"He was an old-fashioned left winger," was Mata's assessment of Juan Snr. "Not so much like me but like Vicente who played for Valencia, for example, or Ryan Giggs. He was fast, always dribbling, dribbling, dribbling. Too much dribbling.

"I've only seen him play on the videos. We had videos at home and when I was a child I would watch them with him. When I was young, maybe five years old, I'd go training with him at Burgos. They were in the second division and I was just a kid but it was exciting to be in the dressing room with the players. This, I think, is the reason I'm a football player now, because of my father's life."

Mata is a dying breed of modern-day footballer, whose ambition, and hunger for success it would seem, knows no bounds. With a World Cup winners medal already in his locker, it would be easy for the midfielder to sit back and watch the Olympic football tournament - which falls precariously close to this summer's Euro 2012 - but he is determined to be a part of London's sporting extravaganza with Spain in July and August.

"It would be a long season but I am young," he added. "For me, it would be the perfect summer to play in the Euros and then the Olympics. My desire is to play in both.

"It is something most players can only do once in their lives. Now it is our time. It would be the dream summer to win the Olympics and the Euros.

"This is our best moment as a footballing state. We are the champions of Europe and the world and now we can win the gold medal at the Olympics."

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