Juan Manuel Mata García (Spanish pronunciation: [xwam ˈmata]; born 28 April 1988) is a Spanish professional footballer who plays as a midfielder for Premier League club Manchester United and the Spain national team. He mostly plays as a central attacking midfielder, but he can also play on the wing.
A skillful attacking midfielder, Mata is known for his passing and technique. At 5’7″ he has a medium build that further facilitates agile mobility, Mata possesses great vision that allows him to provide assists to accompanying forwards.
Mata is a graduate of Real Madrid’s youth academy, Mata played for Real Madrid Castilla in 2006–07, before joining Valencia in 2007–08. He had a release clause at Real Madrid during his last season at the club, and eventually agreed to sign for fellow La Liga side Valencia CF in March 2007, starting in 2007–08.
Benefitting from constant injuries to Vicente and the ostracism to which then-manager Ronald Koeman condemned Miguel Ángel Angulo, Mata gradually carved a niche in Valencia’s first eleven. On 20 March 2008, he scored twice in the Copa del Rey semifinal match against FC Barcelona to help Valencia reach the final against Getafe CF where, on 16 April, he netted the opener in a 3–1 win. During that first season, he was voted the team’s Best Young Player by fans and players alike.
He became an integral part of the club’s midfield, making 174 appearances over the course of four seasons.
In August 2011, Mata signed for English club Chelsea of the Premier League for a fee believed to be in the region of €28 million, and in his debut season was part of the team that won the UEFA Champions League and the FA Cup. On 26 August 2011, Yossi Benayoun offered Mata his number 10 shirt. The Israeli captain said, “I decided to give Mata the number 10 – his favourite. For me, it’s just a number, not my lucky 15.” (Florent Malouda wore number 15 for Chelsea at the time.) Mata wore number 10 for Valencia and for Spain’s under-21s in the summer, and expressed his gratitude to Benayoun. “It is a very important number to me so I’m pleased to be wearing it. I want to thank Yossi,” he said Mata follows on from Chelsea players Joe Cole, Mark Hughes, Ian Hutchinson, and Terry Venables in adopting the number 10 shirt.
The following year, Chelsea won the UEFA Europa League, making Mata and team-mate Fernando Torres the first players to hold the Champions League, Europa League, World Cup, and the European Championships simultaneously. After falling out of favour at Chelsea under José Mourinho, Mata was sold to Manchester United in January 2014 for a fee of £37.1 million.
Mata is a Spanish international, having represented Spain at under-16, under-17, under-19, under-20, under-21, Olympic, and senior levels. He played for the under-20 side in the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup. In June 2009, Mata was included for the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup, his first senior tournament. On 9 September 2009, Mata scored his first goal for the senior team, against Estonia, securing the nation a place in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, and was part of Spain’s 2010 FIFA World Cup-winning squad. In 2011, he went back to playing in the under-21 side, helping Spain win the 2011 UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship in Denmark. He won the Golden Player award and was part of the Team of the Tournament.
On 21 August 2011, Valencia announced they had agreed a £23.5 million fee for the transfer of Mata to Premier League club Chelsea, subject to a medical. On 24 August 2011, Mata signed a five-year deal with Chelsea. He revealed that compatriot Fernando Torres helped persuade him to move to Stamford Bridge, saying “Fernando got me excited about the thought of coming here. He said it would be good for me here, and that me and him together could be good. I also talked to my family and friends about it as well.”