Photo: thesportreview.com - Juan Mata in happier days at his unveiling.
Let me start and say that, since his arrival at the Bridge, I would count myself as one of Juan Mata's biggest fans. He deservedly won the player of the season award two seasons in a row while scoring and assisting a simply phenomenal number of goals.
Since Mourinho was announced as Chelsea manager for the second time though there have been rumblings that he wasn't impressed with Chelsea's star player of the last two years, and that Juan Mata's days at the Bridge were numbered. I think I speak for most of us when I say that at first I thought this was utter nonsense.
Then the season begun and we saw Mata regularly gracing the sub's bench, playing a peripheral role for the majority of games and, in the games he started, finding himself frequently subbed off early.
It took a while for the media and the fans to come to terms with this apparent mis-treatment of a Chelsea hero but I think most well informed supporters and pundits can see now that Mata's lack of minutes for Chelsea this season are well justified. He simply doesn't win the ball back enough compared to Oscar (even though he tries to he often gives away a foul or is easily beaten). Even more worryingly he seems to be less effective going forward under a Mourinho system which is much more direct and requires quicker passing and more sprints than Chelsea have been used to doing under AVB, Di Matteo or Benitez. Although he has a quick turn of pace Mata is much slower over longer distances than any of our other recognised attacking midfielders.
To keep a player who is worth an estimated £40m as a understudy to Oscar (who is now clearly much better at beating players, is faster in a sprint and far better at winning the ball back) in case of injury just seems silly for him and for us (something Mata himself may well be realising). This is compounded when we have Hazard and de Bruyne, who are comfortable playing the 'number 10 position' as well as Schürrle, Willian, and Hazard, who are far more effective wingers. That's without even considering Piazon, Moses and Marin who are all out on loan and are half decent squad players. Factor in Mata's age and at 25 he is only going to get slower, less useful and less valuable.
On top of this Chelsea's accounts for last season (2012-13) were published yesterday. These showed that with a £50m loss this year but that Chelsea were on target to meet this season's UEFA FFP allowed limit of a £45M deficit for the last two seasons. In an era of FFP, selling Mata for his estimated market value would certainly offset a large amount of the costs were we to sign the world class center forward (that many say we need) in January for a club record fee.
Perhaps, just 6 months on from being unthinkable, selling Mata is the best solution for all parties?
While writing this article Mourinho has hinted that, although he would like to keep hold of Mata, he wouldn't block his exit if the right bid came in.
*re-posted to remove my UEFA FFP break even forecasts for Chelsea this season after a few fans took exception to them, only time will tell if they were accurate or not!