With his Common Goal charity and various other gestures that have received infinite praise from the footballing world, Juan Mata has been bestowed with the title of the nicest man in football. At 31 years of age, the Spaniard remains a player of quality at Old Trafford, scoring and assisting in crucial games for the Red Devils when called upon. Although his output has declined slightly over the last couple of seasons alongside his game time, his technical ability is unquestioned with 3 goals and 5 assists this season.
It was Mata’s time at Chelsea where he became one of the most terrific attacking midfielders in the world, without a doubt in his prime. Two consecutive Chelsea Player of the Year awards is a testament to his brilliance and consistency at Stamford Bridge, with the 2012/13 season being his finest. Mata’s exceptional season still lives fresh in the memory of Blues fans with his elegant dribbling, perfect passing and relentless contribution epitomising his spell at the Bridge. Here is a flashback to the finest season (period) of the former Valencia midfielder’s career:
With a UEFA Champions League, 12 goals and 20 assists in 2011/12, 2012/13 would be hard to match, let alone surpass for Mata. Yet the Spaniard did the unimaginable and reached astronomical heights. Missing pre-season due to playing in the Olympics for Spain did not slow him down whatsoever, as a curling free kick and assist to Fernando Torres against Arsenal in a 2-1 victory was just the beginning of this sublime season. Mata continued turning up in big games for Chelsea, with 2 goals and an assist against Tottenham alongside an exquisite free kick against future club Manchester United. With 2 assists against Norwich too, he was simply unstoppable and deservedly won Player of the Month for October.
Goal after goal and assist after assist, his ridiculous numbers never dropped off. In this case. Despite a change in management to Rafa Benitez, Mata was still the most feared midfielder in the league. Goals against West Ham and Sunderland made it a Merry Christmas for the former Real Madrid Castilla player, with numbers beyond belief.
The nightmares of Norwich continued with Mata’s 25 yard strike in the reverse fixture at Carrow Road proving to be the winner. His torment of Arsenal also continued from the beginning of the season at the Emirates with yet another goal, this time at the Bridge. His form transcended the Premier League and his displays in Europe were on the same level. The Spaniard scored goals in the Champions League early on in the season, yet after Chelsea failed to make the knockout stage, teams of the Europa League then became his victims.
Mata scored the opening goal of Chelsea’s Europa League campaign against Steaua București and laid on a crucial assist to Branislav Ivanovic’s winner in the final against Benfica. He was deservedly nominated for PFA Player of the Year and subsequently won Chelsea Player of the Year for a second straight season.
Yet these awards did not do justice to the sheer quality of Mata’s season. He ended the season with an astonishing 19 goals and 35 assists in all competitions, a staggering 54 goal contributions. He had eclipsed everyone that season and cemented his position in Chelsea’s history. Now 30 and having lost a yard of pace since ‘that’ season, Mata is unlikely to reach heights like that again. Not only in the season was he an effective attacker that had incredible statistics, he was a delight to watch for Premier League fans.
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The Spanish international has had a tremendous career with a trophy cabinet to die for. Yet the 2012/13 season was career-defining and that season alone showed the immense quality of Juan Mata to both the Premier League and the rest of the world.