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Chelsea star Mata faces second season test at Stamford Bridge
- Updated: 5 August, 2012
Juan Manuel Mata’s season has technically just finished, but there is little time for the Spaniard to catch his breath. In just over two weeks his Chelsea side kick off their season with an away trip to Wigan, and if last season is anything to go on the creative midfielder is sure to be involved having played a part in 34 of Chelsea’s 38 league game last season.
A long campaign was followed by an intense summer on the field as the 24-year-old participated in two international tournaments. It was in stark contrast to last summer which was dominated by off-the-field events as Mata was linked with nearly all of Europe’s top clubs before eventually moving to Stamford Bridge late in the window.
Mata was supposedly courted by Arsenal and Liverpool, as well as many other top clubs interested in his signature, before Chelsea reportedly paid just over €30,000,000 a fee Valencia could not afford to turn down.
The tireless midfielder immediately set about repaying some of that fee as he scored on his debut against Norwich City. Often players struggle to adapt to a new league or country but Mata quickly became an integral part of the Chelsea first team – a brilliant goal against Arsenal just one of his great moments.
Unfortunately, his early performances were about the only good thing in what proved to be a bad spell for the club as they struggled under new manager Andre Villas-Boas. His departure and the appointment of Roberto Di Matteo turned the season around and Mata is now the proud owner of both FA cup and Champions League winners medals.
The season culminated with the European Championships. Unfortunately for the Burgos-born star however, he plays for arguably the greatest team of all time and thus saw playing time restricted. Nonetheless, Mata still managed to pop up with a goal in the final, a moment he will never forget.
After such a great season it was unfortunate that it ended in underwhelming disappointment as the Spanish under-23’s crashed out of the Olympics despite being one of the favourites. The whole team underperformed and it would be wrong to single out individuals, but Mata looked fatigued and off the pace, understandable after such a long season.
It may prove to be an interesting second season for the Spaniard. Chelsea were a long way off the pace in the league last term, and although they won the FA cup and Champions League, which was a tremendous achievement, it is not unfair to say that they were fortunate. Di Matteo obviously feels the squad is not quite there and has been splashing Roman Abramovich’s cash.
Chelsea have invested heavily already this summer, with Eden Hazard, Oscar and Marko Marin all arriving at Stamford Bridge. All three players are direct competition for Juan Mata within the Chelsea line-up. The club have also been linked heavily with Hulk, but that move seems less likely – despite the fact that Chelsea may need a back-up striker should Torres continue to misfire.
The competition for a place in the starting line-up will definitely reduce the time on the pitch Mata gets, however, it may also push him to an even higher level as he fights for his place. The Spaniard has already become a favourite of the Chelsea faithful, now he has got to push on and really establish himself as one of the best players in the Premier League.
It will be interesting to see if Mata can retain his place in the Chelsea team and also muscle in a bit more at international level. At just 24 there is still so much promise, but how do you top a season in which you lifted the FA cup, Champions League and European Championship?Follow @icentrocampista