It was no great surprise when Juan Mata appeared to score the game-winning goal for Chelsea against Manchester United on Sunday. It also wasn’t a shock when he didn’t get credit for it.
His 86th-minute effort deflected off United midfielder Phil Jones and nestled into the goal. It was ruled an own-goal for Jones, but the glory went to Mata and Chelsea.
The moment reflected Mata’s fully grown stature — both at Chelsea and in the Premier League. Just when it looked like the tepid meeting between two giants of the English game would cruise to a goalless end, the Spanish playmaker stepped up and decided the contest’s outcome. Less than two years after joining from Valencia, Mata has become the Blues’ most important and influential attacking player and made him self an essential component of the club’s success.
Mata’s progression from expensive import to PFA Player of the Year award finalist is largely due to personal qualities which he successfully applied to his professional life. The...