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The international break has come to an end and I thought I’d write in about a player who seems to have been forgotten. Juan Mata was once again not selected for the Spanish national team these days he doesn’t even seem to be in contention his last cap coming in 2016. As far as I know he hasn’t retired from the national side and it’s really sad to see how his career has just faded into the background.
Five years ago you wouldn’t have thought that Mata would find himself in the position of sporadic starter for club and a non feature for country at the age of 30. He was after all a two time player of the year in his first two seasons at Chelsea. He was the driving force for the side that won the champions league and Europa League in successive seasons and along with David Silva was probably the best number 10 in the league. His stats in his final full season at Chelsea being absolutely phenomenal, 12 goals and 12 assists in the league and a place in the PFA team of the year.
At his best during those years he was absolutely unplayable and a match winner and then Jose Mourinho decided he didn’t fancy him. He hasn’t quite been the same since. His move to united for a then club record fee hasn’t really worked out as hoped. While he has had his moments those two goals at anfield being particularly memorable he has never really set old Trafford alight as he did at Chelsea a little bit of magic has been gone for years now.
He is probably the nicest man in football which means most fans have a soft spot for him. I feel that has hurt him though you never hear him make demands or leak stories of transfers to the press most would probably struggle to name his agent. While that is a good thing it means he rarely puts pressure on the club and while I can’t be sure he doesn’t seem like the type to pressure the manager to play him. Sadly this means he remains forgotten a part of the squad while he should be among its stand out players. While I’d hate to see him leave I think he needs a move to find a manager that appreciates his talents and makes the most of it so we can see that magic we once saw again. Maybe a return to Spain. He deserves to enjoy his football again and I think we’d all agree we’d like to see some of his magic again.
Rich, AFC: Good question. We had a lot of discussion among Fulham fans about this recently when Clint Dempsey retired. Some fans somehow do not consider him a club legend because he tried to force a move, despite him scoring both the most goals and the most famous goal in our history. I think you can tell where I’m going with this.
First of all, fans are often hypocrites when it comes to the ‘loyalty’ discussion. Van Persie ‘betrayed’ Arsenal because of the way he joined United, but the way Sol Campbell joined from Tottenham (arguably worse from a neutral perspective: he was a youth academy product, left on a free and joined his club’s biggest rivals) was never regarded as such. You are either against such a ‘betrayal’ whenever it happens (and whichever club it happens to), or not at all.
The same goes for homegrown players who turn out to be not quite good enough. Many young players, especially in the Premier League, will never make it at the club they join as a young lad. Even if they have basically sacrificed their teenage years and career opportunities to play there, the club will mercilessly discard the player once it becomes apparent he’s not going to make it – and no tears are shed for him by the fans. So where do we get off demanding endless loyalty from those players that do make it?
Lastly, a club is two things: a business, and a ’cultural group’ of fans, players, employees etc. A disagreement with the former which leads to a transfer is often regarded as a betrayal of the latter, even if there’s a legitimate reason for the disagreement. If the club are getting a lot of mileage (goals, assists, clean sheets etc.) out of the player, but are unwilling to reward him adequately for it, he can be forgiven for feeling like he’s being taken advantage of.
I enjoyed the time we had with Dempsey immensely, and I cannot blame him for either his failed move to Liverpool or his successful move to Tottenham. The man had outgrown us, as Van Persie did Arsenal. No use crying over it.
…Rich you picked out Le Tiss and Shearer as people who chose Legend status over silverware but both of whom were home town heroes (closest to for LeT) which is the main calling. If couldn’t win everything then being a hero in your home town must be next best thing or even better.
Whether we like it or not most footballers are just employees who have little tie to the corporation that pays them. Why not move for more success and or money?
This being said one of the subjects of the Portrait of an Icon series said something like “it is better to play and be loved than to sit on the bench and be a number” and this could happen anywhere. Was Juninho ever more loved than at Boro?
In short I don’t know but given I’d be a millionaire all ends up I would rather be loved than keep moving for silverware… maybe.
Gushing over Van Persie
Just read Rich, London, AFC’s mail and as a Man United fan I unabashedly and uncompromisingly love RVP. He delivered the 20th League title and scored some cracking goals over the 3 seasons he was here. Legends aren’t always at a club for 10-15 years. Some come, deliver and then leave. One Eric Cantona comes to mind.
Div, Los Angeles.
…I think Rich, London, AFC might be underestimating how much Man Utd fans love Van Persie, or at least how much this United fan loves Van Persie. As for his overall point can we all agree Michael Owen completely blew it.
…In response to Rich’s email, I think that the fundamental issue is that RVP probably doesn’t care at all about being Arsenal’s top goal scorer, or the adulation.
He was willing to leave Feyenoord for more money and a chance of more success to move to Arsenal, a club he had no connection with in a foreign country, so why on earth wouldn’t he be willing to move again for more money and more success? At the end of the day, he was a professional who made a career decision that brought him greater success and more income. I don’t know about other mail boxers, but unless you have a particular vocation to work for a good cause (in which case, you have my admiration), those are literally the two key motivators for basically any profession.
Le Tissier and Shearer got well paid to work for organisations that they had an emotional attachment to. That’s good for them (maybe Kane is an example of the same thing) and they’re lucky but they are the outliers, not van Persie. Even then, Shearer got his title before joining the club he supported, so that was a “have your cake and eat it” sort of a situation which isn’t comparable. Who knows what career choices he would have made had he not already won a title at Blackburn?
You may not be able to see why RVP would value this above being an Arsenal Legend but that is coloured by the fact that you are an Arsenal fan; RVP isn’t and never was.
Also, while I appreciate he moved to a rival, now that years have passed why can’t his great contribution just be appreciated for what it was? He may not be a club legend but he did bloody well for Arsenal when he wasn’t on the treatment table and they were then happy to sell him for a good price that could have been reinvested in the team. That should do for all concerned.
Hugo’s no no
Andreas from Brussels asks how stupid does a footballer have to be to drink drive by mentioning that he can understand why mild (?) drink-driving is acceptable at home because of poor public transport?
Don’t drink if you can’t get home unless you drive. Problem solved.
Hugo should be made an example of. From a spurs fan. Completely on board with Storey here.
Jon (brackets never went away), Lincoln
In response to Anon’s mail regarding the apparent lack of appreciation for Dier and Henderson’s performances by Storey, I would say that it is simply because of different eras in football. You will notice most pundits – the nevilles, roy keane, wright base their evaluation of midfielders from a golden age of football- the 90’s and the early 2000’s when the standard was high-very high, think of vieira,seedorf, scholes,nedved, riquelme, makelele,edgar davids, zidane, matthaeus,ballack, gascoigne,fernando redondo, Effenberg, roy keane….and the list goes on and on.
If assuming that Daniel Storey is of the same evaluation then Dier and Henderson do not even deserve to be acknowledged as human beings let alone footballers.
The era in which we live in is full of Delphs, shelveys,xhakas, with the exception of Pirlo,Xabi alonso(who were both mentored during ‘that’ era of midfielders.
I have nothing against Dier and Henderson but they fail badly at the ‘makelele role’ as central defensive midfielders by being slow, prone to dispossession, awful at tackling,lacking close control, lacking good passing range, failing to effectively stop counter attacks, prone to blunders and despite their height and size not able to impose themselves as commanding midfielders.
They have time on their side for them to become great midfielders but for now they are just average and nothing more.
Jamo, somewhere in Kenya
It’s the letter you’ve all been waiting for…
Position changes refer to movement from my rankings in May.
1 (1) Gareth Bale
Already No.1, and made captain in Ashley Williams’ absence.
2 (2) Aaron Ramsey
Visibly coached Ethan Ampadu through the Ireland game.
3 (3) Joe Allen
Not at his best against Denmark; still one of the UK’s best midfielders. What England would do for a passer like him…
4 (5) Ben Davies
Wales’ first-choice left-back for the foreseeable.
5 (8) Wayne Hennessey
Looks very uncomfortable playing out from the back, but did his regular job in making two or three superb saves in Aarhus. He has now in Wales’ top five all-time appearance makers and has played in more Premier League games than Carlo Cudicini, Jens Lehmann, Kasper Schmeichel, Wojciech Szczesny and Thibaut Courtois – while Hennessey isn’t one of the greats, maybe he’s deserving of just a little bit more respect?
6 (10) Tom Lawrence
Preferred to Sam Vokes for his movement, providing a fluid front three against Ireland with Gareth Bale and David Brooks, and could well be Ryan Giggs’ first-choice ‘striker’, especially as his brilliant headed winner for Derby against Reading shows he’s worked on that area of his game.
7 (18) Ethan Ampadu
“Believe the hype,” I said in May. Now more people are seeing why that hype exists. Few nations in Europe would pick a 17-year-old to start competitive matches, but then few have a 17-year-old midfielder who can win the ball, land 40-yard passes on a sixpence and generally run the game.
8 (20) Chris Mepham
Started both games. God, how Wales needed him.
9 (4) James Chester
It was a big shock to see him benched against Ireland, because he’s still Wales’ best centre-back right now and arguably the most natural choice as captain.
10 (11) Ashley Williams
Seeing Ash start in place of Chester was nothing short of alarming, and despite some generous revisionism after the game, it shouldn’t be forgotten that his first half against Ireland was woeful. He improved after half-time, then sat out the trip to Denmark due to fitness issues (he did puncture a lung in the summer). It looked as if the Spain friendly might be his big farewell; worryingly, his status as captain and first-choice centre-back seems to be safe for now.
11 (7) Chris Gunter
Didn’t start a Wales international for the first time in SEVEN AND A HALF YEARS. That’s 63 consecutive STARTS, which surely has to be somewhere near a world record. Not fully fit but came back in against Denmark so that Connor Roberts could play further forward, which didn’t really work. Three games away from matching Neville Southall’s appearance record and he doesn’t even turn 30 until next July.
12 (6) Harry Wilson
Superb in Giggs’ first fixtures but played no part in this double-header as he regains fitness. Would probably replace Brooks when Giggs does play 4-3-3.
13 (24) Connor Roberts
Marked his third international appearance with a brilliantly taken goal on his wrong foot, having replaced a man who has 88 Wales caps and has never scored. Could well be ahead of Gunter in the pecking order already, but too soon to say as yet. Has definitely done all right for himself on the Swansea nightclub district in his time.
14 (15) David Brooks
One of only three starting outfield players not to score or assist a goal in Thursday’s 4-1 win, yet was superb throughout. Surely the youngest-looking player in Premier League history, even if he is 21.
15 (NE) Paul Dummett
We aren’t all fans of the Welsh FA bowing and scraping to beg Dummett to commit to Wales at the fourth time of asking, but he’s here now and you don’t go to that amount of effort without making him part of your first-team plans. Has a competitive appearance to his name now and is indisputably second-choice left-back to Davies, while presumably being the first-choice left-sided centre-back whenever there’s a five-man defence.
16 (14) Ben Woodburn
Surprisingly one of the two players not to make the final 23-man squad against Ireland, but replaced Ashley Williams in the squad against Denmark, which is why he was wearing No.6.
17 (39) Tyler Roberts
Will have opportunities at Leeds following Patrick Bamford’s injuries and this is a big rise already, following two goes as a substitute – his first competitive appearances for Wales – that suggest Giggs prefers him to…
18 (9) Sam Vokes
Surprising not to see him feature at all, as he was quite good in Giggs’ first few games, but he clearly wants someone more mobile and comfortable in drifting out to the wing.
19 (17) Joe Ledley
No longer the go-to defensive midfield option, thanks to Ampadu; however, there aren’t many others around, either.
20 (12) Andy King
Again: few options. And he won’t play until January as he’s stuck at Leicester, outside their Premier League squad.
21 (13) Declan John
So good in China that he was an unexpected selection to be the only player in a 25-man squad not to feature on either subs’ bench. Moving from Rangers to Swansea was risky, unless Steven Gerrard waved him on his way.
22 (23) Danny Ward
If we’re going by the idea that the top 23 names would need to include three goalkeepers, as per a tournament squad, Ward had better come in now.
23 (30) Adam Davies
24 (28) Tom Lockyer
Somehow still only 23, even as he closes in on 250 competitive appearances in professional football, so he has a long future as perennial back-up to Wales’ better centre-halves. There aren’t that many ahead of him, mind.
25 (NE) Matthew Smith
Doesn’t look to be anywhere near the same level as his young Welsh cohorts, but Rob Page (under-21s manager) and Giggs clearly see something they like, because it’s not often you see a player called up from the Dutch second division. We are desperately short of deep-lying midfielders, after all.
26 (19) Lee Evans
Extremely unlucky to miss out on the squad, you’d think, now he’s playing regularly in the Championship.
27 (16) Chris Maxwell
Has lost his place at Preston.
28 (21) Adam Matthews
The emergence of Connor Roberts and return of Dummett won’t help him, although regular football at last – in League One – is a start.
29 (38) George Thomas
No real reason for him climbing, except that Giggs appears to be a fan and he was bright against Mexico. Big loan spell at Scunthorpe ahead of him.
30 (NE) Joe Rodon
Half-expected to make the squad after worming his way into Swansea’s starting XI. He’ll be there soon enough, given the paucity of options in central defence and his own potential at the age of 20.
31 (33) Marley Watkins
Will surely benefit from regular Championship football, although Giggs cut him from the preliminary squad against Mexico ahead of others in his position.
32 (22) Tom Bradshaw
Millwall’s first ever million-pound signing, fetching their biggest transfer fee since 1989. Still has a long way to go in Giggs’ eyes, you’d think, as he seems to prefer a false nine.
33 (27) Jonathan Williams
Played 75 minutes for Crystal Palace in the cup. Imagine if he could stay fit…
34 (44) Daniel James
As a winger he’s in the one position where Wales are fantastically well stocked (at last), but at 20 he’s been given senior call-ups and is making the occasional appearance at Swansea, so he’ll get chances.
35 (31) Jazz Richards
Deserves to be much, much higher on this last – he once kept Eden Hazard in his pocket, for goodness’ sake – but has plenty of competition on the right and left sides of defence, while staying with Cardiff will limit his opportunities at club level.
36 (40) Rabbi Matondo
Seeing Ampadu (five days his senior) become a key player will be very encouraging to the Manchester City youngster, who shows promise in the under-21s.
37 (NE) Gwion Edwards
Unexpected move to the Championship could stand him in good stead despite Ipswich’s struggles.
38 (NE) Ellis Harrison
Unexpected move to the Championship could stand him in good stead despite Ipswich’s struggles.
39 (25) Neil Taylor
Seemingly behind Alan Hutton in the left-back hierarchy at Aston Villa, which is not a position you want to be in.
40 (26) Emyr Huws
Has the requisite talent, but won’t be playing football for club or country any time soon.
41 (46) Cameron Coxe
42 (34) Ryan Hedges
43 (37) George Williams
44 (48) Mark Harris
45 (41) Regan Poole
46 (NE) Christian Doidge
47 (29) Michael Crowe
48 (43) Lloyd Isgrove
49 (NE) Luke Pilling
50 (50) Ryan Giggs
Just writing in to pedantically correct something I see a fair bit in the mailbox and elsewhere – James in Zug’s email references the fact that fining a player 2 weeks wages is pointless. Presumably, this is on the basis that players earn so much that fines are irrelevant.
As with anyone, footballers’ expenditure rises to match their earnings. They earn a lot (the average wage in the PL was, in Nov 2017, £2.6m a year. Let’s be a bit rough and call it £1.4mn net after tax). So they buy nice houses, cars, etc. All of that costs money, usually paid regularly in the same way us normal folks (i.e, they don’t save up for 5 weeks until they have £300k and then buy a house with a lump sum).
Being docked two weeks wages is therefore not irrelevant to these people. They have debts to service like the rest of – commensurately bigger debts for commensurately bigger salaries.
Of course, if they’ve done their homework it won’t cause too much lasting damage (and it’s not in clubs’ interests to bankrupt their players). But I do suspect there are a large number of PL players who would be concerned about losing 1/26th of their annual salary.
More from Planet Sport:
Ten facts about Goran Ivanisevic on his birthday, featuring friends in high places and tattoos (Tennis365)
The Mancunian Libya international who swapped Manchester City for Serie A (Planet Football)