It might mata, if Oscar’s clata’d then we mata mada mata mistaka, eh? Yeah. You know what I’m saying. We all know what we’re saying, we’re saying: let’s just hope we don’t pick up any long term injuries in the attacking midfield department, yeah?
The matador’s move to United has ruffled more feathers in the fanbase than any sale I can remember. Our Champions League winner, player of the season for two years in a row, flamboyant, inventive and ingenious playmaker and let’s not forget, all round nice guy, has been left on the sidelines for half a season and then frankly humiliated into wading over to an opponent’s bank. Talk about shabby treatment, that’s shabbier than Xabi Alonso going round to Xavi’s house to administer a hot wax treatment, botch the job, and still charge over the odds. Shabby.
Of course, in recent months there had been a lot of gubbins written about Mata’s refusal to track back and his general inability to fit into the new Mourinho system. But that’s balls. He’s a £40m player: he can slot into any system. And besides, a club like Chelsea doesn’t sell £40m players. So what’s going on?
At first I had some fanciful idea that this was part of Jose’s great plan to scupper the Spanish World Cup team prior to a quarter final showdown with Portugal. Frustrate Mata on the bench, play Torres as a lone striker when we all know he prefers a strike partner. Given enough emotional corrosion these Spaniards will become echoing shells of the confident athletes they once were. But then I realised Portugal would have to overcome a title-bound, Messi-led Argentina squad to even reach the quarter finals, and we all know that’s not about to happen, so I shelved the idea.
Then I thought perhaps Jose was trying to curry favour with Brazilian population in general, subbing out our player of the year in favour of Oscar, Ramires, Luiz and Willian to unify a Brazil team and gain some proxy Portuguese support from a former colony. (Which is not actually as daft a suggestion as it might at first seem – the Dutch did well with a bit of Africaans support, after all.) But I shelved that idea too, because, well, they hate the Portuguese in Brazil.
Then I thought, hang on, we’ve already played Man U twice this season, so there’s no way Mata can hurt his home club any more. And with City and Arsenal still to face, he can only help the Chelsea title run – maybe Mata’s in fact still playing for Chelsea, but as a free agent, hidden behind enemy lines. A sulky Brodie to our sassy Carrie Mathison, if you will.
But then I realised that these thoughts were teetering dangerously on the verge of being conspiracy theories, and we all know that conspiracy theories are too busy trying to prove that neocons are building wind turbines to slow down and ultimately reverse the Earth’s rotation, a la Superman, to bother with Juan Mata. So I shelved all the ideas, stopped thinking and started drinking. And it all made sense:
What’s more symbolic than coming in as a new manager and selling the player of the year for the past two seasons? As a statement of intent, you can’t beat gifting your best player to the reigning champions. Mourinho’s not playing games with countries or clubs, he’s playing games with Abramovic. He’s saying, this time round, we do it my way. We sell who I want to sell, and by extension buy who I want to buy.
When Guardiola first took over at Barcelona he sold crowd favourite Ronaldinho and in so doing opened the position for Messi. It was a coup that gave him total control of the club and unrivalled dedication from his players. When presented with a surfeit of midfield talent, Mourinho has had to do the same, and when compared to Hazard (23), Oscar (22) and Schurrle (23), Mata (25) is the unfortunate fall guy.
The important thing to remember, of course, is that Mata is no fool. He’s kicked some chairs around, huffed and puffed, but let’s look at it from his point of view: He’s in the prime of his career and doesn’t really want to be in a team with six attacking midfielders. He’s won the World Cup, European Cup and the Champions League. He’s trained for fifteen years to reach this point and he really doesn’t want to sit on the bench now. What he wants is to play great football, represent Spain in the World Cup, and make some cash before arthritis sets in. An offer to double his wages to £150k a week for over four years, and play first team football in the Premier League is too good to turn down. Selling Mata to United is not disloyalty, if anything Mourinho has made it easy for Mata to make a great career move.
Of course the knee-jerk sentiment is one of hurt and anger at an enforced separation. The pain of a pining lover crying in his underwear as he facebook stalks the girl who was stolen away when her parents moved to Oman. Get over it dude! That was eighteen years ago! But let’s take heart in this: if nothing else, the sale of Mata to Manchester United shows that Mourinho is planning long term unity for his Chelsea tenure.
Meanwhile, I for one will cheer Juan upon his return to the Bridge, and will remember him forever as a Chelsea Champions League winning legend. Now, here’s to his goals against our opposition!