Jan 2, 2014, 7:37 AM EDT
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho claims the “door is open” for Juan Mata to leave Stamford Bridge in the January transfer window.
Handed a precious start in yesterday’s 3-0 win over Southampton, Mata was unable to capitalize on the opportunity and was substituted off the pitch just eight minutes into the second half.
At the time, the score was 0-0 and the Blues were struggling to unlock the Saints. Those problems were immediately addressed by Mata’s replacement, Oscar, who injected the match with creativity and controversy as he burst by Southampton keeper Kelvin Davis but was booked for a dive.
Mata, meanwhile, displayed unusual frustration after being withdrawn in the 53rd minute. When his number came up in lights he flung his arms up in the direction of the touchline where Mourinho was standing and did not shake the boss’ hand as he left the pitch. Before taking his seat with a look of disgust Mata needed to be corralled by fellow teammate Michael Essien.
For Mata, the incident marks the most recent chapter in turbulent times since the arrival of Mourinho. Before the first ball was kicked last August there were rumblings that Mata didn’t fit into Mourinho’s plans and that proved to be the case when the Portuguese gaffer claimed Oscar and Mata were too similar to play together.
Over time Mata – who is a fan favorite at Stamford Bridge and last year was shortlisted for player of the year in the league – has been given opportunities but they’ve been few and far between, just 13 appearances in 20 matches.
The demotion has visibly dented Mata’s confidence and with the January transfer window now open, many believe he is one of the top targets who could move.
“I want to keep him,” Mourinho said following the win. “I don’t want him to go. That is my opinion, my wish, but my door is open.
“The club’s door is open too, so when a player wants to speak to us we are there waiting for them. If you are asking do you want the club to sell him, no – I don’t want to.”
Mourinho played down the apparent dissent displayed by Mata following his substitution.
“I think his frustration was because of the result because we knew we had to win,” Mourinho added. “If we don’t win this game the difference to the leaders is bigger.
“When he came off the team was losing two points, so I think his frustration was about that. At the end of the game everybody, including him, was happy in the dressing room and everybody was celebrating the victory.”
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