Juan Mata is a fine footballer and an even finer human being. You don’t need to be a Manchester United, Chelsea or Valencia fan to have a place in your heart for Juan Mata.
The Spaniard was an absolute joy to watch when on top form, particularly in the peak years of his career at Chelsea before going on to conjure some truly special moments across his eight years in Manchester.
Chelsea and Manchester United aren’t exactly known for capturing the hearts of neutrals, but Juan Mata is one player that absolutely no one dislikes. Here are seven reasons why.
Even in this modern era of statistics-driven opinion, there are some players who everyone knows you have to watch to truly appreciate.
Mata might be slowing down now, rarely making it onto the pitch, but when he was in his prime, he was definitely one of those. Other midfielders might’ve scored more goals or claimed more assists, but very few provided quite as much joy.
We could watch his dribble against CSKA in December 2017 all day long.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) December 5, 2017
Comparing team-mates to… tapas?
If you didn’t know already, Mata owns a tapas bar in the centre of Manchester, which is cool enough on its own, but it also, of course, qualifies him to compare his team-mates to various dishes.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is likened to a sirloin steak, Daley Blind to churros and David De Gea is best described as a fried squid, apparently.
Let’s be serious for a second, shall we? Away from the pitch, aside from eating tapas, Mata is driving his Common Goal charity, which continues to build pace.
The charity fund is asking for footballers to pledge 1% of their wages to a collective fund that goes to football charities around the globe.
Among the players to have committed are Mats Hummels, Giorgio Chiellini and Shinji Kagawa. English players Charlie Daniels, Alfie Mawson and Duncan Watmore are also on board, while UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin has also joined the cause.
Such is his will to communicate with supporters and share his love and insight into the game, Mata shares regular blog posts on his website.
Many footballers are accused of being disconnected with average fans, but that accusation could never be aimed at Mata.
Hi! Here is my latest post. One Hour Behind: 'Champions and derby in a crucial week'. https://t.co/L16Fi88CKX
— Juan Mata García (@juanmata8) December 4, 2017
Proving Jose Mourinho wrong
Moving to Chelsea from Valencia in 2011, Mata was a key player for Chelsea in their cup-double winning season, the Spaniard claiming an assist in the Champions League final.
One year later, he assisted Branislav Ivanovic’s winner in the Europa League final, but even that didn’t convince inbound manager Jose Mourinho.
Mourinho arrived back at Stamford Bridge and sidelined Mata, regularly leaving him on the bench before his eventual sale to United in January 2014.
Reunited with Mourinho at Old Trafford, Mata maintained his position a mainstay of the United side, consistently putting in excellent displays and coming up with the goods.
Just being so damn cool
Are you even human if you don’t fancy him just a little bit?
— Juan Mata García (@juanmata8) November 30, 2017
His Instagram is brilliant
We’re not really sure how he manages to find the time to be so good at football, run a tapas bar (and regularly be eating there if reports are true), run a charity and still do so much.
To delve into his life (and you should want to, it’s brilliant), follow him on Instagram. Here’s an example of the great content on offer.