Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez has compared Juan Mata with Chelsea legend Gianfranco Zola. Praise does not get higher than this, and Mata has demonstrated over the last two years that he may be worthy of such a praise. Since arriving in a £24 million deal from Valencia, Mata has been one of the important members within the squad.
He is rarely injured, scores from free kicks, assists many goals, tracks back extremely well, and is a great professional.
Mata has contributed a mammoth 85 goals in just 108 appearances for Chelsea. Yet, it may take several seasons before Mata can be regarded at the same level as Zola.
“Game intelligence, that’s the key. Juan’s very clever, finds space and technically he’s very good. He has good vision and scores goals.
“Gianfranco Zola was this kind of player, not the biggest but he had game intelligence and could get into the box at the right time,” said Rafa Benitez to the Sun.
Mata is now playing at a time when Chelsea have truly world-class players like Eden Hazard and Frank Lampard around him. Zola also played with a very good Chelsea team, but it was not on par with the current squad.
Zola at his best:
In terms of skill, Mata has everything to go on and eclipse Zola. However, it takes more than just skill to be considered alongside a legend. The signs, though, are extremely good.
It is not easy to summarise the two players, as they possess such an abundance of skill: These two videos showcase some of their best.
Mata at his best: