After back-to-back summers in which Mata picked up the 2010 World Cup and the European Under-21 Championship titles, the forward was viewed as one of the hottest prospects in world football.
Beginning his youth career with Oviedo, he moved to Real Madrid's academy at the age of 15 and spent three years there before being promoted to the Castilla team in 2006-07. Impressing despite relegation, Mata was curiously not given another deal at the club and was allowed to move to Valencia due to a clause in his contract.
Oozing with pace and a direct style that sends a shiver down the spines of defenders, Los Che got themselves a bargain and it was not long before he was making his mark on La Liga. Scoring goals aplenty from his attacking role on the flank, he helped the side to the Copa del Rey trophy in 2007-08 and his understanding with David Villa was praised by many. In 2010, he was part of the Spain squad that won the World Cup.
Due to Valencia's growing debt problems, Mata departed for Chelsea for around €30 million in August 2011. He quickly became a key player for the Blues, acting as the playmaker as they attempted to usher in a more attractive style, and ended his debut season as an FA Cup and Champions League winner. In the summer of 2012, he made an appearance for Spain in the Euro 2012 final, scoring the final goal in the 4-0 rout of Italy.
Strengths: Technically superb, his close control and vision are excellent and he has the ability to beat his man and set up chances.
Weaknesses: Lightweight and lacking power, he is not much help to his defenders and can sometimes drift out of games.
Career high: He was named man of the match as Chelsea beat Liverpool in the 2012 FA Cup final, and then added Champions League and Euro 2012 winners' medals in the weeks that followed.
Career low: Relegation from the Segunda with Real Madrid's B side left him with little hope of breaking into the first team.
Style: Classy, skilful, technical, a creative midfielder with a great eye.
Quotes: "He's a player who scores and assists and he can add to any squad in the world.'' Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas.
Trivia: A former student of journalism at the Universidad Politecnica de Madrid, he enjoys playing table-tennis in his spare time.
MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER