Unless you’ve forcibly been keeping yourself away from the world of the English Premier League you’ve probably noticed ‘The Juan Mata Saga’ seemingly escalating with every passing hour. Less than twenty-four hours ago sporting websites, twitter, and blogs much like this one exploded upon hearing that Manchester United had made a £37,000,000 bid for Chelsea’s fallen-from-favor player Juan Mata. This transfer, which now seems overwhelmingly likely to happen very soon, is a major story for a January transfer window and has caught many off-guard. Now, about a fortnight ago I wrote an article on the Premier League season thus far and ended up foreshadowing what has just unfolded between Chelsea and Manchester United,
The other mystery at Chelsea involves another Spaniard however: Fan-favorite Juan Mata has been side-lined by Jose Mourinho apparently because he ‘needs to adapt his playing style’ to suit the new-look team the manager is aiming for. Unfortunately for Chelsea fans this has pitted a popular player, their ‘player of the season’ twice in a row, against an arguably more popular and beloved manager. Mata has gone on record saying that he will fight for his place but with the 2014 World Cup literally around the corner and his place in Spain’s national squad in serious danger the longer he remains on Chelsea’s bench he might be tempted to seek a move away during the current transfer window.
Some fans, myself included as you can see above, knew that Juan Mata was on his way out of Stamford Bridge but even then, few of this select bunch could have foreseen that he would make his move so soon. Shortly after Jose Mourinho returned to Chelsea and Mata was subsequently side-lined I knew that this was not going to end well for one of these two men. To the Chelsea faithful Mourinho represents an ‘anti-hero and savior’, and Mata represents the ‘hero’ figure of modern football; professional, opinionated but not offensive, hard-working, and plays well to his fans. Although people in the media and beyond have been eager to paint Mata and Mourinho as two polarizing opposites and that being the cause of their falling out; the truth is that, at their cores, they are actually very similar people. In fact, the only thing distinguishing Mata from Mourinho is that Mourinho never feigns affection and is not afraid of being offensive; intentionally or otherwise.
Do not get me wrong, Mata is still a shining example of a good-natured modern footballer but sometimes I’ve felt that he’s been too good for his own good. Mourinho on the other hand revels in playing mind games with his opponents, wherever and whoever they may be, and does so in such a ruthless way that he would put Nicollo Machiavelli to shame. Actually, on that thought, it would not surprise me in the slightest if Mourinho came out one day during a press conference and admitted that The Prince by Nicollo Machiavelli was his favorite book as he has clearly studied the Machiavellian way of ruling quite extensively. When the personalities of Mata and Mourinho clashed there was no way that Mourinho was going to end up being usurped by one of his own players: He did not stand for that at Real Madrid and he sure-as-hell wasn’t going to let that happen at Chelsea. Again, I should clarify exactly what I mean by ‘usurped’ in this instance. Mata does not strike me as the sort of person who would instigate a dressing room rebellion against a manager to further his own agenda (again, like what we saw happen at Real Madrid), what he did have however was the support of a huge portion of Chelsea’s fans. If the fans continued to kick up a fuss about their favorite player warming the bench week-in-week-out it would not only compromise Mourinho’s position but would also have a knock-on effect on his team. Mata was unable to adapt his playing style to suit his new manager and subsequently lost his regular place in the team, forcing Mourinho to sideline him until he did so. So, rather than vegetate on the bench as his hopes of travelling to Rio with his Spanish compatriots vanished into thin air Mata has taken the step to ensure he gets more game-time and has opted for a move to Chelsea’s rivals Manchester United.
Forget the protests of Chelsea fans saying that Mourinho has ‘forced’ Mata out of the door: I suspect that this transfer has been in the pipelines for some time and it is a mutual agreement between Mourinho and Mata. The implications and timing of Mata’s transfer to Manchester United could have not been more meticulously planned by Mourinho and could not have benefited Mata more. By selling Mata to Manchester United Mourinho has patched a huge hole in David Moyes’s sinking ship; making a considerable financial return and arming Moyes with the means to take points away from Chelsea’s title rivals at a crucial stage of the season. Mourinho can now take the money he has gotten from the sale of Mata to reinforce his squad in areas that need it. Also, this transfer indicates that Mourinho no longer considers United a credible threat to his plans but he does see them as a potential roadblock to the plans of his opponents. Looking at this from Mata’s side this transfer means that Mata gets the crucial game-time he needs to secure a place in Spain’s world cup side and even gets a doubling of his salary into the bargain. Ultimately, both Mourinho and Mata are winners, as is David Moyes – the only potential losers are Arsene Wenger, Manuel Pellegrini, and Brendan Rogers.
Arsene Wenger especially.
Jose Mourinho is a master of the art of destabilization, of subliminal warfare, and is a master tactician when it comes to football. In this transfer saga alone we have seen him at his best. Here and throughout this season we have been given a refresher course in what it means to be ‘Jose Machiavelli’. In the words of the Italian himself.
Swiping Willian from Tottenham literally at the last moment
“It is doubly pleasurable to deceive the deceiver.”
Uprooting the Chelsea side and transforming the team’s playing style to adhere to himself
“Whoever conquers a free town and does not demolish it commits a great error and may expect to be ruined himself.”
Handsomely defeating David Moyes’s Manchester United with Samuel Eto’o, one of his ‘old’ players
“If an injury must be done to a man it must be done so severe that his vengeance need not be feared.”
Demanding that Juan Mata adapt his playing style to suit his own managerial style
“Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.”
Selling Juan Mata to Manchester United and arming them against Chelsea’s rivals
“The end justifies the means.”
And that is why the transfer of Juan Mata to Manchester United is not as bad an idea as many think it is. Mourinho has re-armed a demoralized David Moyes so that he can better fight mutual enemies and thus, in this instance, ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’. Very well, Manchester United may well end up recovering and return to haunt Mourinho with the very player he gave to them but that is an obstacle he will undoubtedly overcome when it arrives, until then it is merely an afterthought. Chelsea fans might well be upset initially but if this move by Mourinho works and Chelsea end up winning the Premier League because Manchester United have taken points away from their competition are they still going to be upset? Probably not; therefore the end justifies the means. Sentiment does not win teams trophies and does not ensure success, Liverpool are a standing testament to that fact.
So this is farewell Juan Mata. You have been an admirable servant for Chelsea but all good things must come to an end eventually. All the best for your footballing future and I hope that you make it to Rio this summer.