How did Juan Mata, Chelsea's player of the year fall from grace?!

By: Matt Barlow
It has become the riddle of the summer. How on earth did Juan Mata slide from being Chelsea's player of the year to the fringe of the team?

Supporters are certainly baffled, as are rival managers who made enquiries about signing the 25-year-old after he was left out of the team at Manchester United on Monday.

Tottenham were quick to let it be known they were interested and Arsene Wenger went as far as to admit Mata 'could be on the market'.

Chelsea and Jose Mourinho deny they want to sell and Mata does not want to leave but he is intelligent and mature enough to work it out for himself.

He is not someone prone to tantrums or to demand showdown talks and accepts that he missed early pre-season and Chelsea's tour of Asia after international duty at the Confederations Cup.

He also realises there has been managerial change and he will need time to understand what Mourinho expects of him.

Barring an unforeseen chain of events, Mata will not leave Stamford Bridge before Monday's deadline but he will reassess his position in January.

Mourinho wants to play high-tempo and intense football and this includes a tireless work ethic from the four most advanced players in his 4-2-3-1 formation.

It is the reason behind his pursuit of Wayne Rooney and his decision to move for Samuel Eto'o, who performed such a role for him at Inter.

Willian, who completed his move to Chelsea on Wednesday after acquiring a work permit, may not be combative like Rooney but he is quick and willing to close down spaces.

Mata, it must be said, does not do this. In fact, he rarely contributes off the ball.

After hijacking Willian's transfer to Tottenham last week, Mourinho rejected the idea he wanted Mata out and stressed he would need many quality players for these positions to achieve what he was after.

This week, however, Chelsea were in talks for yet another winger: Christian Atsu, a 21-year-old Ghanaian international from Porto.

Mata appears to be staring at the prospect of being the new Joe Cole, gifted footballer and darling of the fans but under-appreciated by Mourinho and certainly not central to his plans.

One significant difference is that Roman Abramovich adores Mata as one of the few recruitment successes of the post-Mourinho era and one of the creative forces who brought attractive football to Stamford Bridge.

credit: Matt Barlow/SportsMail