One to Watch - Juan Mata
Name: Juan Mata
Date of Birth: 28/4/88
Former Clubs: Real Madrid B, Valencia
League Appearances (Goals): 178 (54)
International Appearances (Goals): 14 (5)
Stat of the Day: Juan Mata made more assists in La Liga last season than Lampard, Malouda and Kalou managed together in the Premier League
Chelsea capitalised on Arsenal`s inability to part with any sizeable amount of cash to sign someone and swooped to sign Juan Mata from Valencia over the summer. They are starting to reap the rewards from signing the 23-year-old as he is starting to add the fluidity and creativity Chelsea have been lacking for a while. I`ve had an interest in seeing how Mata performs in the Premier League - namely because he`s in my Fantasy Football team, but also due the rave reviews he has received from his time in Spain.
Mata reminds me of two people. His resemblance to manager Villas-Boas in uncanny, whilst his playing style is akin to that of fellow Spaniard, yet Premier League rival, David Silva. Probably defined as the modern day playmaker - the ability to drop into the space behind the striker and create chances, whilst dictating the ebb and flow of the team - Mata epitomises the Spanish ethos of retaining possession, thinking assertively and unlocking defences meticulously. Never selfish nor individualistic, Mata has displayed his ability to the world with Copa del Rey, Supercopa de Espana, UEFA U19 and U21 Championship honours. Oh, and a World Cup. We could be in trouble.
I feel I must end now, as I have given far too much credit to a Chelsea player. He, along with the majority of Chelsea fans, have probably never heard of QPR. Enjoy the clip below.
Mata joined Real Madrid at the age of 15, swiftly progressing through the junior teams and soon becoming a word of mouth phenomenon - some even dubbing him the new Raul. While featuring for the Juvenil A side in 2005-06, Mata grabbed 18 goals to enhance his reputation yet further. Real Madrid rewarded him with promotion to the Castilla side, where he grabbed 10 goals in 40 appearances playing as a central striker.
Trouble was on the horizon though, as Real Madrid`s Director of Football made errors with Mata`s contract, meaning with as little as a few months left on his deal, negotiations were happening with other clubs. Valencia were one of several teams to make an offer to Mata as they capitalized on Madrid's mis-evaluation of Mata`s talent.
An injury to Valencia star Vicente, allowed Mata to cement his place in the team and a run of impressive performances saw him soon become an integral part of a talented Valencia team. He shone while operating in tandem with fellow Spanish stars David Silva and David Villa and his admirers soon grew to a wider audience. The departures of Silva and Villa cast doubt over Mata`s future, but he stayed for a further season finishing the season with 8 goals and 12 assists. Mata signed for Chelsea in 2011 for £23.5 million, finishing his Valencia career with 33 goals in 129 appearances - admittedly his effect on the Valencia team during his stay in Spain far more telling than mere statistics.