Mata exit rumours fail to add up for Chelsea

Posted by Phil Lythell

AP Photo/Julio CortezStranger things have happened, but it's hard to envision Chelsea letting Juan Mata go. He's been the Blues' player of the year the past two seasons.

Although idle transfer speculation by its very nature deserves to be treated with suspicion, it is impossible to read repeated stories linking Juan Mata with a move away from Chelsea without passing comment.

The explosion in football gossip websites and "in the know" twitter accounts has seen the amount of fabricated nonsense increase to such an overwhelming extent that the once-exciting transfer rumour is now relegated to the same level of veracity as the existence of the tooth fairy.

The problem is that sometimes the most utterly ludicrous suggestions turn out to be true and therefore no story, however outlandish, can be summarily dismissed. For examples of the highly unlikely coming true, you can refer to Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano joining West Ham, Andy Carroll costing Liverpool £35m or Robinho shunning Chelsea for Manchester City.

-Mou rules out Mata, Luiz sales

But even by those standards, the reports claiming Chelsea are happy to lose the services of the man who has been comfortably their best player over the last two difficult seasons -- his only two at the club -- are bizarre in the extreme. So much so that there is the tiniest of nagging feelings that rather than being mere mischief-making on behalf of the press or social media, there might actually be a grain of truth behind it, though it is virtually impossible to locate.

Jose Mourinho has repeatedly said that Mata is an important player for Chelsea and he has also continually stated that he wants to run his eye over every member of his senior squad before he makes a firm decision about their immediate future. With the Spaniard still to join in preseason training following his participation in the Confederations Cup, no decision could possibly have been reached, assuming Mourinho is as good as his word.

Yet still the rumours persist -- most notably the frankly laughable suggestion of a swap deal plus cash for Wayne Rooney -- and there remains the concern that, as the old adage goes, there is no smoke without fire.

Some commentators have based their rumblings on the misguided premise that Mourinho does not see how Mata would fit into his system. Unfortunately, that premise also asserts that the Special One is wedded to a 4-3-3 formation that has no room for a classic number 10. If that is true, why then did Mourinho build his Champions League-winning Inter Milan team around Wesley Sneijder and how can his continued faith in Mesut Ozil during his time at Real Madrid be explained?

The answer is that those folks who are putting two and two together are coming up with twelve are under the erroneous assumption that Mourinho’s tactics have not changed one iota in the six years since he left England.

Of course, there is a very real chance that 4-3-3 will be the starting system for Chelsea this coming season and there may well be a different role for Mata. Mourinho suggested as much last week when speaking about the player.

“With Mata, I need to get to know him better,” he said, quite reasonably. “I like sometimes to play with what I call 'wingers with the wrong foot' -- right-footed men on the left and left-footed men on the right. He is the only left-footed player we have when we want to play with a winger on the right side.”

It suggests that Mata might sometimes be deployed in a wider role to the one he became accustomed to last season. It does not, however, suggest that Mata is surplus to requirements -- in fact, it suggests quite the opposite.

One of the consistent points mentioned in these transfer tales is the notion that Mata is a saleable asset, a player who can command a fee of £30m and upwards. The rationale is that Chelsea are keen to adhere to the strict regulations governing UEFA’s Financial Fair Play initiative and that if significant sums are to be spent on bolstering the weaker areas of the squad, then some of the money needs to be raised through player sales and the removal of their wages from the balance sheet.

That is all well and good but for the fact this concerns the sale of not just anyone, but the club's double player of the year. If the rumours are true then it begs the questions: just who are Chelsea trying to bring in? Lionel Messi? Quite simply, there are very few players in world football who could adequately replace Mata in the Chelsea lineup, so surely that theorem is null and void.

There would appear to be only one possible explanation for these rumours, if indeed they are true. That explanation is that Mourinho is planning to build his team around a player other than Mata and that with the Spaniard likely to be marginalised, he would prefer to sell him while his stock is still very high.

As mentioned above, replacing Mata is easier said than done though Chelsea do already have someone on their books who has already shown how effective he can be when deployed as the fulcrum of Chelsea’s attacking intent -- a certain Eden Hazard.

Considering the almost telepathic understanding that developed between Hazard and Mata last season, it would be rather foolish to jettison that double-act on a whim. But it appears to be the only realistic reason why these rumours have materialised. The little Belgian would be a worthy candidate for any team in the world to build their team around, though surely retaining the pair in tandem would bear greater fruit.

Mourinho is renowned for his stubbornness and has no respect for reputations alone. However, even the manager who goes about his business in his own inimitable and provocative style will not cut his nose off to spite his face by offloading a player who has already given so much to Chelsea Football Club and still has so much more to offer.

Follow Phil Lythell on Twitter @PhilLythell

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