The idea might seem far-fetched, but Jose Mourinho has been bent on denying Juan Mata ample playing time this season, which ultimately led to the Spaniard’s indifferent performances on the pitch and his failure to establish himself firmly in the starting lineup.
Mata, a creative genius, is comparable to players like Mesut Ozil in terms of intelligence and vision on the pitch. Although his personal accolades ultimately did not lead to Premier League crowns for his club during the last two seasons, he became a firm fan favourite and a top performer worthy of the transfer fee Manchester United are paying to secure his services. To lose a player of such calibre to a direct rival and a huge club for a substantial amount of money in the midst of a very close title race is something that does not happen very often.
Mata has only had a handful of complete games this season as Mourinho gradually phased him out of the starting 11. Mata could not hide his frustration after getting substituted against Southampton in the 53rd minute, and that seems have to burst the bubble of frustration and feeling of injustice he might have felt since Mourinho’s team plans that don’t feature him became more prominent.
A thorough professional and fan favourite like Mata would not leave a club of the stature of Chelsea unless there are reasons beyond his control, and fighting for a place in the squad does not seem like the defining factor. Incidents in the dressing room often come to public light and we may never know what caused the Spaniard to demand a move to a struggling club whose chances of silverware are all but over this season.
It seems like Mourinho’s mind games have taken down yet another victim, and it is certainly sad to see a player of Mata’s ability is being forced to take a different course in his career for no concrete fault of his own. From a pure football perspective, it would be fitting if Mourinho’s decision comes back to haunt his club come season’s end. For Mata, a new beginning exists far away from the acrimonious atmosphere he has had to cope with so far this season.