‘The new Maradona’ ‘The new Messi’ or ‘The new Pele’.
If I had a penny for each time one of these comparisons was made, I may well be able to purchase our star performer of the last two seasons, Juan Mata.
The £17m purchase from Valencia has shown his worth in just 18 months at the club, finishing as Player of the Year in his debut season at the club, as well as receiving the Man of the Match award in the 2012 FA Cup final win.
After three fantastic seasons at Valencia, scoring 37 times and assisting 50 in just 141 games, he was granted a move to the Bridge, where he has taken the Premier League by storm, carrying on his unselfish ways, setting up a goal every two games, whilst chipping in with a fair few himself.
Outside of London, he is not getting the plaudits he deserves, being shunned for the PFA Player of the Year, a distant 100/1 shot with SkyBet – The same price on Michu, and Paul Scholes. But why?
Mata was the first player to reach both 10 goals and 10 assists this season, and if you replace Fernando Torres for a finisher, you’d have to say that he may well have notched up more than the 25 assists he has already – his record in a season to date.
There is a huge furor around the Gareth Bale, or ‘The new Cristiano Ronaldo’ this season, fans pricing him at £80m and backing him into a ludicrous 2/9 for the PFA Player of the Year. Now, Bale is in fantastic form, but still only reaching that of similar that Mata has reproduced for five seasons straight.
With ‘pundits’ putting Bale in the same category as Ronaldo, and not even mentioning the likes of Juan Mata, you have to wonder why, and if you read through the stats, its hard to give a reason supporting their claim.
Is our Spanish sensation sacrificing personal glory for the team? In the last two Premier League seasons, Mata has scored 29 goals and assisted 45 in 97 games, involving himself in a goal in 77% of Chelsea’s matches over that period, whilst Gareth Bale managed 34 goals and 29 assists during 78 games, giving him a goal or assist in 80% of Spurs games.
The major change is in the way Bale plays this year, a much more direct player in the No.10 role, leaving himself able to become that ‘match-winner’ and take the glory himself, which is massively down to Spurs inability to find goals from elsewhere. He is simply playing in a team of a worse standard than his ability, which is the reason for the commotion about his recent performances.
As for Mata, being surrounded by the likes of Torres, Hazard, Lampard, and Oscar, all scoring regularly, the onus is not on him to run the game as much as Bale, which is the reason he is getting overlooked for such awards as this years PFA Player of the Year, and wrongly so in my opinion.
Another reason why Mata should be rated more highly is one I alluded to earlier. With 97 games over the same period Bale has managed 78, you have to give credit for someone who can play at that standard for an extended period of time, and that capacity of match time.
With both being in similar roles in attacking-midfield, it will be interesting to see how both progress over the next two or three years, but with our man showing his consistency over the span of five years, Bale is only doing so in his second.
Although I agree that the Player of the ‘Year’ award is pretty self-explanatory, I still think Mata’s contribution this year far outweighs Bales, with Bale dropped from 14 assists to just 6 this year, it is clear where his priorities lie. There is simply no better all round player in the Premier League than Juan Mata at the moment, and I expect we will see that for years to come at the Bridge.
There are £80m price-tags put on the Tottenham man, and likening to the great Cristiano Ronaldo, but what is for certain, is that Juan Mata is out to make his own name, and is a perfect example at the moment that whilst form is temporary, class is very much, permanent.
By Brad Smith