Juan Mata made a £25m move from Valencia to Chelsea in the summer of 2011. From that time, he has become a fan favourite - for his work ethic, unselfishness, and creativity in attack.
He has been the Chelsea Player of the Year for two successive seasons, and showed no reason coming into this campaign why he couldn't capture the competitive award for a third time.
However, Jose Mourinho hasn't read the script. After he chose to place a fully fit Mata on the bench, much speculation arose over the 25-year-old's future at Stamford Bridge.
Although now back in the squad, his position is far from safe, and it seems that he is just not one of Mourinho's preferred options. With Brazil on the horizon and Mata as good as ever, it would be a shame to see his talent wither away on a crowded sideline.
This article will examine why it would be most beneficial for Mata to make a move in January to a different club.
The 2014 World Cup
Everyone knows that to capture a spot in Spain's World Cup squad, you need to be nearly flawless. To get playing time, you need to be an elite player.
There is no greater honor than to represent your country and you can bet that Mata would love to silence Oscar and Brazil after their 3-0 spanking of Spain in the Confederations Cup final.
But in order for Mata to get playing time, he needs good showings at the club level. The first step is getting consistent playing time, something that seems unlikely at Chelsea for the time being. Mata could go to another club, a different English, Spanish or French side, and demonstrate his quality to the Spanish national team coach, Vicente del Bosque.
Mata was recalled to the Spain side this weekend after being left out of previous games - because of his recent string of impressive performances, he is safe for now. However, with Mourinho at the helm, Mata risks his shot of playing this upcoming summer.
The optimum time
If Mata were to ask for a transfer, there would be more suitors than seats at Stamford Bridge. Such is his talent, and he could also earn Chelsea a nice profit. Recent rumours from The Mirror speculate that Ligue 1 defending champions, Paris Saint-Germain, are set to offer Chelsea £35m in January.
At Paris Saint-Germain, Juan Mata would be able to flex his muscles on the world stage, like he is able to at Chelsea. However, PSG, if the rumours are true, would likely offer Mata the promise of playing time. Although they have plenty of talent, PSG do not have the deep bench that Chelsea boast (Hazard, Schurrle, Willian, and Oscar).
And he would have more attacking options than ever before, with Edison Cavani and Zlatan Ibrahimovic manning the front. Mata's assists numbers would sky rocket because of those two strikers; two who can actually score goals.
The coaching predicament
Before I start with this controversial segment, let me make one thing clear. Mourinho is an excellent coach and achieved unprecedented levels of success during his last stint at Chelsea.
However, sometimes coaches and players simply don't mesh. This appears to be the case for Mourinho and Mata. It is not Mata alone that Mourinho has found fault in but also David Luiz, a regular first-team choice last year. Mourinho appears to prefer Oscar and John Terry.
Despite assurances from Mata that his work rate will not drop off, it is hard to imagine a situation where Chelsea's defending Player of the Year could improve when he doesn't play. Roberto di Matteo was able to bring out the best in Mata's game and he was able to keep this up under Rafa Benitez. Especially with di Matteo, Mata had elevated performances and added new elements to his game.
If Mata were to move to a new club, he could again learn from a manager who he worked well with, and improve his level of play. Under Mourinho, it appears he's just another player and he risks his talent stagnating.
Any fan of football would hate to see this happen.
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