#33: Juan Mata, SPA

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Another product of Spain’s little revolution of dribbling dervishes, Juan Mata, who was discarded by Real Madrid when he was 19, has become a hybrid of ideologically opposite soccer cultures. Getting his education in Spain’s technique-obsessed youth ranks, Mata has had to learn to combine the wondrous things his feet can do -- pass, dribble and shoot with devastating efficiency and creativity -- with getting his mere 5-foot-7 stature to function in the rough-and-tumble English Premier League for Chelsea to become the model modern footballer.


Toiling behind Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, Xabi Alonso and David Silva, however, Mata more than likely will play a role off the bench during Euro 2012, re-energizing games with his peerless runs as opponents start to flag under Spain’s pressure.




Expert's take: It is curious that the word "promising" is still being used for a 24-year-old footballer with 274 games played and 72 goals scored at the time of writing. But the Chelsea midfielder, despite having confirmed his class in such a difficult tournament as the Premier League, still has lot of potential, so the best is yet to come from Mata. -- Vito De Palma


Stats That Matter:


• Five goals in 16 appearances for Spain


• Led Chelsea and was ninth in Premier League with 573 passes completed into final third in 2011-12


• Second in Premier League with 66 chances created in 2011-12 (Van Persie had 72)


• Led Chelsea and was sixth in Premier League with 61 successful crosses in 2011-12


• Third on Chelsea with 30 successful one-on-one take-ons in Premier League play in 2011-12


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