With only Xavi, Messi and Alves ahead of him on assists in la Liga, 23 year old Valencia winger Juan Mata is a player well worth Arsenal and Tottenham digging deep for.
Those watching the final of the European U-21 Championships in Denmark would have caught a glimpse of Juan Mata celebrating with his teammates as Spain overcame Switzerland 2-0. It was a competition where the 23-year-old Valencia forward showed how he was several classes above his team-mates. And so he should be considering Mata is also a World Cup winner with Spain and, according to Opta, the footballer who is only beaten by Xavi, Messi and Alves for the most number of assists in la Liga since the 2008/2009 season.
Mata originally began his career at Real Oviedo before moving to Real Madrid’s youth ranks. But rather than waiting decades for his turn to make his debut for the first team, a confident Mata left the Spanish capital for Valencia in 2007 where he has been a regular in Mestalla ever since, missing just nine league games in the past three seasons.
Despite his youth, Mata took on the responsibility of being Valencia’s captain last season - not an easy task at a notoriously unstable club - and chipped in to his club’s third-placed finish with eight goals and 12 assists.
The fact that he has a number of suitors around Europe means that any club interested in Mata are going to have to dig very deep indeed.
Mata is best playing on the left of a front three, but is a footballer that tends to cut inside rather than take the ball out wide despite being left-footed. However, the versatile forward player is often deployed as a second striker for his club - or even in emergencies as the main front man. A fine finish and a key eye for goal when given the chance sees Mata with 33 league goals in his four seasons in Mestalla.
Physically, Mata is not the biggest at just 1.70m so the stereotypical comment to make is that he may struggle with the physical demands of the Premier League. But Mata is a feisty bugger and has no problems on a cold night in Bilbao or at Osasuna, so should be just fine.
Valencia’s economic woes which forced the departures of Villa and Silva last summer have eased a little, so the sale of Mata is no longer necessary for the club. But that doesn’t mean that the forward won’t be flogged for the right money. The fact that he has a number of suitors around Europe means that if Arsenal are really interested in Mata they are going to have to dig very deep indeed.
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