Juan Mata has been almost living the dream for the past two and a half years. The highly rated winger was picked up by Chelsea in 2011 amidst interest from quite a few Premier League clubs, and here he blossomed further.
His 33 goals and 58 assists were critical in Chelsea's Champions League and Europa League conquests, and also the FA Cup glory; and earned him two back to back Chelsea Player of the Year awards.
Although the Chelsea of the past three years was not a very technical unit, they were still one of the strongest teams in Europe, and it was this haphazard transition the Blues were forcing on themselves that allowed Mata to break in.
Now, having lost out his starting place against the dynamism of Oscar and Willian, Mata has been reduced to a frustrated bench warmer. For a man who left the Real Madrid reserves for a better team, and carving out a niche for himself when the opportunity arose at Valencia, the current Chelsea situation is a bitter pill.
Mata is not an exceptionally gifted footballer, not the fastest, not the strongest; what he offers is an amalgamation of everything and a vision that puts him forward. Though Hazard's and Oscars can win games individually on sheer talent, Mata would make the team win.
It is that quality which has earned him his prominence in the football world, and why everyone from Bayern Munich to Barcelona is reportedly keeping an eye on his situation. But with Manchester United now the most likely destination, Mata has perhaps made a bad call.
The current champions are dwindling in the League, and are almost certain to miss out on Champions League qualification this season. Mata would easily break into the starting XI, given the poor run of the United players; and this is perhaps the reason for the switch.
At teams like Bayern, Barcelona, and PSG, Mata might face the same scenario again. Individual brilliance often overshadows consistent hard work, and clubs like these have plenty of talent and affordability. Mata, in my mind, made a more practical choice. Rather risk being a bench warmer at another club, he went in for a more complacent position in a rather mediocre squad.
United are under transition, and it will be gradual. Mata would be hoping he can do enough to have the team shaped around him, ironically similar to what Mourinho intends to do with Oscar, the man who has replaced Mata.
And while Mata would lose out on Champions League football and a chance to fight for the Premier League title any time soon, he would be playing at one of the biggest clubs in the world and a team that seems lacking in creativity.
The fans and pundits are divided on this move arguing about how Mata would fit into the United XI or why Chelsea should not let him go, but it seems irrelevant now.
Jose Mourinho has played his cards well. He did not see Mata as a solid pillar for his vision for Chelsea's future, but he knew the fan support the Spaniard had earned. He also knew that Mata was a potential gold bag, and he played that well. The success of Mata's successors has reinstated Chelsea fans' support in Mou's vision and letting Mata go now, would be easy.
The lack of playing time would only reduce Mata's market value, and so it is only better to sell him now than later. Brought to the Bridge for £23million, the supposed £37million move is a great trade for Chelsea.
Manchester United do not seem to be title challengers for this year, and so strengthening them does not deter Chelsea's prospects. Also, United had upcoming matches against Arsenal and City, and if they can take points off them, it makes Chelsea even more comfortable.
The Blues won't lose much from this, their dearth of CM's on loan includes Victor Moses, Marko Marin and Lucas Piazon. And the cash load would be helpful in securing a striker that the club desperately needs to partner Romelu Lukaku next season.
Mata gains some much needed play time given his place in the Spanish World Cup squad could be under threat. It's an almost win win for the player and the clubs involved, at least on paper. But reality is seldom the same, and Mata just might realise that soon.
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