Juan Mata insists he had no personal issues with Jose Mourinho despite being frozen out of the team when the Portuguese returned for his second spell at Chelsea.
Mata became a fans’ favourite after joining Chelsea in 2011, helping them to the Champions League and FA Cup in his debut campaign and earning the Player of the Year award that season and the next.
But the Spaniard would be on his way out of Stamford Bridge in his third season – sold to Manchester United for £37.1m in January 2014 – after Mourinho’s arrival sparked a new tactical approach.
Yet Mata dismissed rumours of a bust-up with his boss who he would go on to serve under once more when Mourinho
took over at United in 2016.
“At the time, it was a bit difficult because [things were great in] 2011/12 and then the next season, which
probably was my best season in terms of numbers and games played and enjoying on the pitch, 2012/13,” Mata told an Adidas & 90min podcast.
“We won the Europa League at the end with Rafa Benítez as a coach and everything was going so well on a personal level.
“And then José arrived and he had a different way of playing football, or a way that was not perfect for my qualities as a player, and that was it. I was not playing much as I used to play before.
“There was never a personal problem between us, like some people said at the time, but it was a challenge for me.
“Having been Player of the Season for the last two years in a row, playing nearly 70 games [in 2012/13] and feeling like an important player of the group, everything changed and I had to prove myself again. I didn’t last very long after that at Chelsea.”
Recalling that legendary night in Munich, Mata played his part by giving Didier Drogba a pep talk after
the Blues fell behind late in the Champions League final to Thomas Muller’s goal. The rest became part of Chelsea folklore.
“In the final, when Thomas Müller scored in the 80th minute or so, I still felt okay,” he added.
“We still had time and we were going to have one chance to get back.
“I actually told Didier Drogba, who was almost giving up, I said, ‘Keep going. I don’t know why but I feel like we’re going to have one chance’, and then the corner came in and everyone knows what happened next.
“In that moment, the only thing going through my mind was ‘just put the ball in the box’. And he did the hard part.”
It was the culmination of what Mata believed was the team’s fate.
“I really felt like it was destiny from early on. I think it was the last 16 against Napoli and we lost 3-1 away from home, but I felt okay.
“We’re going to go back to London and we’re going to come back. We’re going to win, and we did.
“After that, Benfica was difficult and then Barcelona, which was an incredible semi-final.
“They had a lot of chances, they missed the penalty. After that game, I knew it was destiny, especially when he had to play the final against Bayern Munich in Munich.”