The Spanish Armanda (3) - Juan Mata
Our new series takes a look at one of many Spaniards who, over the years, have graced our first team, our choice for this article is Juan Mata.
Back on 24 August 2011 Chelsea signed Juan Mata from Valencia, for a fee believed to be in the region of £23.5 million. Following signing on the dotted line Mata revealed that he had been persuaded, in part, to join Chelsea by his Spanish compatriot, Fernando Torres, with Mata revealing,
'Fernando got me excited about the thought of coming here. He said it would be good for me here, and that me and him together could be good. I also talked to my family and friends about it as well.'
Mata was, gracefully, given the number 10, vacated by Yossi Benayoun, so the newcomer could wear the same number shirt Mata had worn previously during his career.
The Spaniard made his debut for Chelsea on 27 August 2011, against Norwich City. Coming off of the substitutes bench Mata endeared himself to the Stamford Bridge faithful by scoring a debut goal, netting Chelsea`s third, in a 3-1 win, but deep into stoppage time.
Mata`s first start for Chelsea came in the following game, on 10 September 2011, away to Sunderland, playing his part in a 2-1 win. His first Champions League start came four days later when, once again, he scored in stoppage time, to give Chelsea a 2-0 win against Bayer Leverkusen.
In the Champions League campaign that season, Mata played against his former club, on 6 December 2011, creating both of Didier Drogba`s goals to give Chelsea the win that ensured they qualified from the group.
21 February 2012 saw Chelsea lose 3-1 away to Napoli in the first knockout tie of the Champions League. Andre Villas-Boas was soon to depart the club and be replaced by Roberto Di Matteo.
With Di Matteo at the helm, Mata was switched to a central attacking role rather than being isolated on the left-wing. A goal against Birmingham, in an FA Cup replay helped Chelsea into the quarter-finals of the competition, the goal meant Mata had scored in each round of the FA Cup. The run was to end in the next round though, even though Chelsea beat Leicester City 5-2.
Having reached the semi-final of the FA Cup, where Chelsea played Tottenham at Wembley, Mata scored a controversial goal whereby there were doubts as to whether the ball had crossed the line. In the same game, which Chelsea went on to win 5-1, Mata provided assists for both Ramires and Malouda.
On the Champions League stage Mata played in both legs of the epic semi-final as Chelsea eased past the Catalan side to reach the Champions League Final, where Bayern Munich lay in wait.
Before the final could be played, Chelsea had a date with Liverpool in the FA Cup Final, Mata provided the assist for Ramires and did enough to win the man-of-the-match award as Chelsea won the FA Cup.
The same season saw Mata voted as the Player of the Year by the Chelsea support.
On 19 May, Mata was in the Chelsea side that faced Bayern in the Champions League Final, it was his corner that Drogba headed home to give Chelsea an equaliser, forcing the game into extra-time and penalties. In the penalty shoot-out, Mata took the first penalty and saw it save, but the rest, as you know, is history.
That season, Mata created 66 chances for Chelsea and with 14 taken finished second behind David Silva, Mata also scored 6 goals.
The start of the 2012 / 2013 season saw Mata miss pre-season training with the player representing Spain, at the 2012 Summer Olympics, in London. After joining up with Chelsea, Mata`s first goal of the season came in the League Cup tie against Wolves, a game which Chelsea won 6-0. Four days later, Mata notched his first Premier League goal of the season when he scored against Arsenal, his goal coming from a direct free-kick.
His performances in the Premier League that season saw him awarded the Premier League Player of the Month award for October.
In December of that season, Mata put pen-to-paper on a contract extension at Stamford Bridge, tying him to the club until 2018.
Mata made his 100th appearance for Chelsea on 3 March 2013, in a 1-0 win over West Bromwich Albion.
His performances also saw him honoured by his fellow professionals with Juan being nominated for the PFA Players` Player of the Year award. The season ended with Mata providing the assist, via a set-piece, for Branislav Ivanoivc to head a dramatic winner, in injury time, to make Chelsea the winners of the Europa League.
The Spaniard was also to win the Chelsea Player of the Year award for a second consecutive season a feat that caused him to remark,
'I feel so happy. It's my second season here and winning the trophy two years in a row is amazing for me. I just want to say thank you to all the supporters and all my teammates."
The following season, 2013 / 2014, saw the return of Jose Mourinho to the managerial helm, for some reason Mata spent more time on the bench than he should have done with Jose preferring the talents of Oscar in the playmaker role.
It wasn`t until 29 October that Mata scored his first goal of the season, the opener in a 2-0 win over Arsenal, at the Emirates in the League Cup.
Struggling for regular first-team action Mata made just 18 appearances for Chelsea, but his Chelsea career was fast coming to an end, after making 15 appearances, scoring 33 goals and providing 58 assists, Mata was inexplicably sold to Manchester United with Chelsea receiving a club record £37.1 million for his services.
Mini Fact-File - Juan Mata
Full Name - Juan Manuel Mata García
Date of Birth - 28 April 1988
Place of Birth - Burgos, Spain
Height - Five Feet Seven Inches
Position - Attacking Midfielder
Youth Career - Real Oviedo, Real Madrid
Career Clubs - Real Madrid Castilla, Valencia, Chelsea, Manchester United
International Honours - Spain U16, U17, U19, U20, U21, Spain
If there is anybody of Spanish origin who you would like to see featured in our new series simply send an e-mail to JUVENILED40@HOTMAIL.COM and we`ll do the rest.
Spanish Armada (1) - Asier del Horno
Spanish Armada (2) - Fernando Torres