Despite it being late October/early November, Juan Mata is probably an early contender for the end of season player of the year awards. Starting the season in sparkling form he has been involved in nine goals for Chelsea this season in the Premier League (4 goals, 5 assists). In a word, he has been outstanding.
And this is a player who cannot get into the starting line-up for the Spanish national side.
Born April 28th 1988 in Villafranca Montes de Oca (a small municipality in Spain), Mata followed his father into football starting his career at Real Ovideo. Like many talented teenagers he soon found himself being offered a contract to play at Real Madrid. He duly accepted.
…marvelled at the skill and flair he showed…
It was here that people started to take notice of Mata. Youth coaches marvelled at the skill and flair he showed in his play as he continued his rapid growth ascent into the youth teams. His goalscoring prowess was quite impressive at that age, scoring 18 goals in one season – something of a surprise for someone so small (5ft 7in).
Unfortunately for Mata, or perhaps in hindsight unfortunate for Real, he was overlooked for a place in the first-team squad, unable to dislodge the ‘stars’ in that team. Instead he transferred to Valencia and the player we see today began to emerge in his stay besides the Mediterranean Sea.
There he managed to muscle his way into the first team and never looked back. Impressive performances and important goals in his debut season led him to being honoured with the Young Player of the Year from the club’s fans.
He continued his excellent form for the next two seasons becoming a ubiquitous player in the Valencia team. It was during this time where he was awarded the first of his 19 caps for Spain. However with Valencia’s precarious financial position it was inevitable that that the club’s best players would have to be sold. Several top English clubs were said to be interested in tabling an offer for him. In the end Chelsea won out with a £23.5 million bid.
Judging on current form, it looks like a bargain.