If the rumors are to be true, talented Chelsea midfielder Juan Mata does not figure to be a part of the squad now that Jose Mourinho will be the manager and is on the transfer market for the right price.
At first glance, this would seem like a silly rumor given that Mata is a world class talent and only getting better. Additionally, given that he just turned 25, he has his best years ahead.
But the issue isn’t Mata’s skill or attitude, which are both thought of highly. The only reason(s) that Mata is even possibly available to leave Chelsea on a transfer is because of Jose Mourinho’s ways and inability to modify his philosophy.
While it could be said to be an outlandish theory, some would speculate that the reason Jose Mourinho wants to sell Juan Mata is because Mata is Spanish and a product of Real Madrid‘s youth teams. Therefore he wants to rid himself of being reminded of his most recent past by getting rid of a player who could represent that.
Not that this couldn’t a legitimate reason for Mourinho wanting to sell Mata, but it is certainly not the main or only reason. It must be remembered that Mourinho at his core prefers his teams to be solid defensively. With each club that he has taken over, his first priority has been to fortify the defense with the main goal being to try and keep a clean sheet (no goals scored) each game.
Keeping that in mind, the 2012-13 25 player first team squad had at least ten players who are midfielders, and this does not include Micahel Essien or Kevin De Bruyne who where loaned out for the season. And for the most part, Chelsea played with either three or five in the midfield.
If it played with three, this meant that a player like Eden Hazard was pushed further up to a winger/forward role with Mata, Oscar, and either a Ramires or Frank Lampard as the midfield trio. In a five man midfield, Mata would play on the right as part of the three who played a more advanced position.
The way the 2012-13 Chelsea midfield looked and how it played is not how it will play under Mourinho, who prefers to have two holding midfielder types who are capable of going forward but whose first task to help out defensively. This is where Mata begins to be squeezed out as he is not a midfielder who is used to or plays in a central midfield position.
And with the likes of Oscar and Hazard already on the team who are faster than Mata, he is then looking at potentially being a bench player and not a starting eleven regular.
Knowing all that, it would still be silly for Mourinho and Chelsea to sell a player like Juan Mata. A player of his skill set and technical ability would be able to adapt and modify what he does to what the coach wants him to do on the field. Aside from that, Chelsea struggled in games where Mata did not start or even play at all, something seen early on in Rafael Benitez‘s time as interim coach.
The importance of a player like Juan Mata, who has won European silverware the last two seasons and was voted by his teammates as the best player on the team the last two seasons, to Chelsea cannot be overstated. While Jose Mourinho has his philosophy and what type of tactical system he prefers to employ, selling a player like Mata would be a mistake.
Mourinho needs to be pragmatic, lose the stubbornness, be willing to adapt, and recognize that a Chelsea team and midfield with Juan Mata is infinitely better than one without him. If the goal is to win trophies, keeping Juan Mata is a must because selling him would be a regrettable mistake.