Juan Mata has rather surprisingly split opinion since his January transfer to Manchester United for what was then a club record £37.1million and this week former Liverpool defender turned Sky Sports pundit, Jamie Carragher, has labelled Manchester City’s David Silva ‘two or three levels above’ Mata.
I for one feel this is harsh and simply cannot agree. Mata has spectacular footballing ability, the likes of which Sir Alex Ferguson had hoped would come from Shinji Kagawa had the Japanese international been able to adapt physically to the Premier League. I put it to you that it is only due to the disastrous nature of the David Moyes era that Mata is no longer rated as highly as he was during his Chelsea career.
Mata is both a World Cup and a Champions League winner and has produced numerous moments of sheer quality in the Premier League. His time at Chelsea will be looked upon favourably due to the success the team had with him in a key position. Especially in his last full season at Stamford Bridge, Mata was buoyed by the arrival of fellow countryman Rafael Benitez and was voted the supporters’ player of the season.
Mata was widely considered one of the best players in the Premier League, along with David Silva however that is when his Chelsea career began to unravel. Almost overnight the former Valencia playmaker had gone from Chelsea’s most important player to an individual whom Jose Mourinho didn’t want.
Both parties gave each other six months until the January transfer window and when it became clear the situation was unlikely to improve, United made their move.
Realistically it was never a move which would save United from their spiralling fortunes on the pitch under Moyes but it vastly improved the quality in the attacking third within the squad. If we fast forward another six or seven months into the future, the look of United’s front-line, with Mata included, is as good as anyone’s in the English top-flight.
However, somehow Mata is not rated as highly as he was just twelve months before. Of course you have to take into account his on pitch performances. Whilst he was United’s standout performer at the back end of the 2013-14 campaign, despite being played pitifully out of position, the quality of his Chelsea days was not present.
Perhaps it still isn’t, but with Mata remaining an immensely gifted player, as he showed in yesterday’s victory over Everton, it is very harsh to label him so far behind City’s playmaker.
In fairness to Silva, he is an extraordinary talent, many of the City supporters I speak to go as far to say he is the best the club has ever had, but everything in his game besides an extra turn of pace can also be found in that of Spanish compatriot Mata.
Silva is in fantastic form, and has been for the past 18 months. He is part of an exceptional team who are rightly champions of England, however it is harsh to say he is so far ahead of Mata.
Mata has yet to be given a fair run in his favoured position during a settled period at United although Wayne Rooney’s current suspension for violent conduct could pave the way for this to occur.
Mata has a wonderful first touch and is able to control the ball like few others. United supporters haven’t seen a player with such technical ability since Dimitar Berbatov.
It is understandable that people will rate Silva as a better player than Mata and in a lot of ways it is difficult to disagree yet there is not much between the pair. Both are the two best playmakers of that ilk in England and will remain so for the foreseeable future.
It is always a danger to write off a world-class footballer and when Mata strings a run of performances together, I’m sure people will begin to see the exceptionally gifted Spaniard who helped guide Chelsea to a Champions League and Europa League double in consecutive seasons.
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