He's here, he's there, he's everywhere, Jo...uan Mata?

Clive Rose

"He has a lot to learn. I think he has two faces - one beautiful and one I don't like. He must keep one and change the other one."

"Joe Cole scored a goal which was very important. He played really well in terms of attacking dynamism. When he scored the goal the game finished for him. After that I needed 11 players for my defensive organisation and I had just 10."

"Joe can be a regular but he has to improve when the team needs him to be part of a defensive organisation."

-José Mourinho, 2004; BBC

A couple days ago I posed the question "Who is going to be this squad's Arjen Robben?" but perhaps the more pertinent question when looking for any spiritual parallels between Mourinho's two tenures at the club - especially in light of Mourinho's comments on Friday - would be "Who is going to be this squad's Joe Cole?" An alternative way of asking that question would be who is going to be this squad's ...Mesut Ozil? ...Karim Benzema? ...Wesley Sneijder? ...Samuel Eto'o?

Too many tricks, too many times, in the wrong places, at the wrong times is how Sven Goran Eriksson once described Joe Cole; the same Joe Cole who perhaps above everybody else was the prized product of the West Ham academy.  Brazilian by nature, yet English by birth, the hype around him often approached the unbearable.  It didn't help that Claudio Ranieri basically called him the new Gianfranco Zola when he arrived in 2003.

A year later, a new arrival, similarly hyped, would soon be on a collision course with the 22-year-old.  Despite playing in 35 league matches the previous season (a mark he'd never reach again in his career), Cole was not guaranteed a spot under Mourinho's new regime, neither in the early-season attempts at a 4-4-2 nor later in the iconic 4-3-3.  An injury or two (the first and second of many) to Arjen Robben and a long (and successful) League Cup campaign did afford Cole a decent haul of minutes, but above all that it was Joey's willingness to work, adapt, and prove himself to Mourinho (after more than just the one instance of public criticism) that allowed him to rise to new heights which eventually saw him not only named to the 2006 PFA Team of the Year but win Chelsea's Player of the Year award in 2008.  In-between, he starred in a World Cup: England's greatest hope alongside a young Wayne Rooney.

I gave him a little help but his ambition was the engine of the process. If Joe is succeeding now it is because he was always open to be criticised, always open to be helped, always open to try to improve.

-José Mourinho, 2005; BFTGT

A couple years ago in an interview with talkSport, Cole - his careered long derailed and stunted by injuries - called Mourinho pretty much the best manager ever.  He called his football under José's guidance as his "best," while claiming that the manager saw something in him that perhaps even he himself didn't.  But he was magnanimous, professional, and inspiring even in his immediate reaction back in 2004:

He has no axe to grind with me, he just wants to make me a better player. So I'll listen to him and take it on board.

"It's all about Chelsea really. There is a real good team camaraderie and the boss only wants to make us better players.

-Joe Cole, 2004; BBC

We can only hope that Juan Mata responds in a similar way, despite having accomplished far more than Cole had up to the initial flashpoint.  It is all about Chelsea.  It's not about Mata; it's not even about Mourinho.  It's about Chelsea, really.

I have plenty of faith that The Special Juan and The Special One will figure this out.  I believe Mourinho believes this as well, given all the repeated reassurances to both the public and the player this summer that there is indeed a place for Juan Mata at Chelsea.

We also shouldn't be surprised that José wants to use Mata on the wing.  He hinted at that already in late July and now that Mata is fit and ready (finally), we now will get to see that in action, all willing.

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