Chelsea prosper from international snubbing

Posted by Phil Lythell

AP Photo/Sang TanJuan Mata: Omission from Spain squad is plus for Chelsea

Twenty years ago having a Chelsea player called up to represent their country would have been a cause for celebration. That is not to say it was unheard of - the Blues were amply represented in the England squad that travelled to Italy for the 1990 World Cup by Dave Beasant and Tony Dorigo - but an international break certainly did not see the mass exodus from the club that occurs nowadays due to the mass influx of foreign players in the intervening years.

With the next stage of qualifiers for Brazil 2014 taking place over the coming week, Chelsea's training ground at Cobham has been left with a skeleton playing staff in the first team squad with only the injured, aged or internationally retired remaining in Surrey. The opportunity to see your club's players competing on the continental and world stage is certainly still an honour - and is generally a positive thing as it means you're team is obviously well-stocked with talent - but the age old question of club versus country once again rears its head.

- Ashley Cole free to face San Marino

The advent of the Champions League, and latterly the Europa League, has meant that the fixture list is ever more congested. Factor in the Capital One Cup and the FA Cup and top players are rarely given a breather. While it would be ridiculous to feel sorry for those lucky enough to play football for a living, the concern about the quality of football they can produce when such demands are placed on them from all angles is definitely real.

Take our very own Juan Mata as a case in point. The little maestro arrived at a new club in August 2011 and played virtually every match in a physically demanding league. Despite a wonderful campaign and a hugely deserved Chelsea Player of the Year Award, his form noticeably dipped in the closing stages of the season. He then jetted off to Poland and Ukraine for Euro 2012 and while he might have only played a few minutes it was necessary for him to train hard if suddenly called upon. Immediately after that he was part of Spain's squad for the Olympic Games so it was no surprise to see him look a shadow of his former self in the opening few weeks of the new season.

But what a difference a break makes. Mata was rested for Spain's friendly with Saudi Arabia and their qualifier in Georgia at the beginning of September and was allowed further time off by Roberto Di Matteo to recharge his batteries. The result? Four goals and five assists in his five starts for Chelsea since his return. Unfortunately for him, he has been omitted from the latest Spain squad by Vicente Del Bosque but if it reaps the same rewards as his last absence then I don't think too many people at Chelsea are going to share his disappointment.

John Terry's retirement from international football should see him experience similar benefits. The former England captain has been driven out by what he perceives to be a vendetta against him. Leaving such matters aside for a welcome change, the enforced rest that he will have to endure this week will be gratefully received by his battle-weary body. His troublesome back has flared up on numerous occasions during the last couple of seasons causing him to miss games. Terry's style of play demands that he puts his well-being on the line every time he takes to the field but the passage of time will always take its toll. Like Mata, not being involved in the international arena can only be a good thing for Chelsea and hopefully it will enable him to elongate his time as a player.

However, it isn't always positive to see your players left out of international squads, especially when they are not an automatic first choice at club level. Victor Moses has made a bright start to his Chelsea career but has only made two starts. A run out for Nigeria will give him some much needed playing time and help him retain match fitness for when he is called upon by Di Matteo.

As I said earlier, it is always an honour to see your players in international colours especially when they stride out as captain of your country as we have seen with Terry and Frank Lampard in recent years. But if you ask me which team I would prefer them to be fit and firing for there is only ever going to be one answer and it isn't England.

Follow Phil Lythell on Twitter @PhilLythell

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