Juan Mata: XI of his greatest teammates is incredible

Juan Mata is set to leave Manchester United this summer with his contract at Old Trafford coming to an end, according to the Daily Mail.

The 33-year-old agreed a 12-month extension on his contract last summer but will become a free agent if he doesn’t sign a new deal.

He’s yet to make an appearance in the Premier League this season, playing just four times across the Champions League, FA Cup and Carabao Cup.

It looks set to be a sad end to Mata’s United career – the team he joined in January 2013 from Chelsea for a then club-record £37.1 million.

During his career, Mata has played alongside some incredible players – whether that’s for Valencia, Chelsea, Man Utd or his national side, Spain.

He’s won trophies everywhere he’s been – including a Champions League, the European Championships and a World Cup.

UEFA EURO 2012 Champions Spain Victory Parade And Celebrations
MADRID, SPAIN – JULY 02: Juan Mata (L) and Santi Cazorla of Spain holds the UEFA EURO 2012 trophy aloft while celebrating with fellow players as they parade the UEFA EURO 2012 trophy on a double-decker bus on July 2, 2012 in Madrid, Spain. Spain beat Italy 4-0 in the UEFA EURO 2012 final match in Kiev, Ukraine, on July 1, 2012. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

Therefore, picking his XI of greatest teammates must have been a real challenge.

But that was the task he was set back in February 2020, which has been republished by FourFourTwo on the back of news that he’s set to leave Manchester United.

Let’s take a look and who he picked – and why:

Goalkeeper: David De Gea

“David is a very good friend, and also the most talented goalkeeper that I’ve ever played with – his reactions are amazing. Every goalkeeping coach will tell you his natural ability is unbelievable.”

Juventus v Manchester United - UEFA Champions League Group H
TURIN, ITALY – NOVEMBER 07: David De Gea of Manchester United celebrates victory with Juan Mata of Manchester United after the UEFA Champions League Group H match between Juventus and Manchester United at Juventus Stadium on November 7, 2018 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Right-back: Branislav Ivanovic

“At Chelsea, he could play at right-back or centre-back and be excellent in either position. He was strong, very difficult to beat one-on-one – and even effective at the other end of the pitch, too.”

Centre-back: Rio Ferdinand

“He had the next locker to me at United and was a great help when I first arrived. Rio was a leader, and his positioning on the pitch was always right. He was very comfortable with the ball at his feet and good in the air as well.”

Centre-back: John Terry

“A top header of the ball and a leader for Chelsea. I’d always look for him with my free-kicks and he’d be there – I gave him a lot of assists! He could turn an average cross into a good one…”

Left-back: Patrice Evra

“He’d been at Old Trafford for eight years before I signed, so he was experienced. He was a key figure in the dressing room, and could defend and attack really well. A great character to have around.”

Manchester United v Chelsea - FA Cup Sixth Round
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – MARCH 10: Juan Mata of Chelsea competes with Patrice Evra of Manchester United during the FA Cup sponsored by Budweiser Sixth Round match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Old Trafford on March 10, 2013 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Centre-midfield: Frank Lampard

“Simply, one of the best players in the history of English football. Frank scored so many goals for a midfielder. He could switch the play, pick a pass and also arrive in the penalty area at the right time to find the net. His goalscoring was his best attribute – how many midfielders have that? Oh, and he could take penalties brilliantly, too.”

Centre-midfield: Michael Carrick

“An unsung hero who always played the ball at the right moments and the right times. He made his team-mates better, he controlled matches and, such was his understanding of football, helped games to flow. Michael made the right decision almost every time.”

Centre-midfield: Ryan Giggs

“We weren’t team-mates for long, but it was a dream to play with him. Ryan was already a big star when I was a kid and I looked up to him as a left-footed player – he was gifted. He broke all of United’s appearance records, could run so quick and assisted many goals.” 

Chelsea v Manchester United - Premier League
LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 05: Ryan Giggs of Manchester United beats Juan Mata of Chelsea during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on February 5, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Forward: Wayne Rooney

“Another of English football’s greats. He could do everything on the pitch – even play as a midfielder – so he has to be in this XI. He broke the goalscoring record for both United and England, and it was a privilege to play with him.”

Centre-forward: Didier Drogba

“We’ve shared some fantastic memories together, especially that night in Munich when Didier scored the winning penalty in the 2012 Champions League Final. He could create goals for himself, taking the ball in the middle of the pitch and driving forward, and was so powerful in the air.”

Forward: David Villa

“I played with him for three seasons at Valencia early in our careers, as well as for Spain. A superb finisher with both feet, and intelligent in his movement when positioning himself in the box to score with one or two touches. He wasn’t that tall or fast, but he became a world-class forward by being smart.”

Spain v Iraq - FIFA Confederations Cup
BLOEMFONTEIN, SOUTH AFRICA – JUNE 17: David Villa (L) of Spain celebrates scoring his sides opening goal flanked by his teammate Juan Manuel Mata of Spain during the FIFA Confederations Cup match between Spain and Iraq at Free State Stadium on June 17, 2009 in Bloemfontein, South Africa. Spain won the match 1-0. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)

Manager: Ronald Koeman

“This might surprise a few people, but I owe so much to him. When I was 19, I was having a difficult moment at Valencia and not playing very much. He saw me in training once, took me aside and said: ‘I think you can play, so keep doing what you’re doing. Play with confidence – I’ve got faith in you and want you to express yourself.’ Koeman was the first manager to trust me in professional football, even though there were other more experienced players in my position, like Vicente.”

Full XI

First thing’s first, Mata’s teammate XI is pretty incredible.

But who misses out?

In terms of the goalkeeper, Chelsea legend Petr Cech is edged out by his current teammate, De Gea.

Another surprise is that Evra gets the nod above Ashley Cole at left-back.

Cesar Azpilicueta also misses out thanks to Branislav Ivanovic’s inclusion at right-back.

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But there can’t be too many complaints with the central defensive pairing of Rio Ferdinand and John Terry – although it means Sergio Ramos has to miss out!

A host of massive names miss out in the three midfield positions in favour of Frank Lampard, Michael Carrick and Ryan Giggs. They include Paul Pogba, Cesc Fabregas, Xavi and Andres Iniesta.

There’s also no Eden Hazard, Angel Di Maria, Fernando Torres, Romelu Lukaku, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Robin van Persie or Samuel Eto’o. Instead, a front-three of David Villa, Wayne Rooney and Didier Drogba isn’t too bad.

Meanwhile, Koeman was named as the best manager he’s worked under beating Jose Mourinho and Louis van Gaal.

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