In the game of football, mentor figures go a long way in shaping the careers of talents, and their impact is one that even the biggest of stars seldom forget.
For Juan Mata, there have been a number of figures to choose from, with Jose Mourinho, in particular, being a gaffer for whom he undoubtedly possesses a great deal of respect.
However, before his tenures under Mourinho at Chelsea and Manchester United, Mata was also under the tutelage of Unai Emery at Valencia, spending a full three seasons with the current Gunners’ manager.
It appears that he has nothing but praise for Emery, and this could feed the rumblings that are speculating a summer move to Arsenal for the Spanish playmaker.
In a portion of Unai Emery: El Maestro, an authorized biography of the former PSG manager, Mata states: “I think what’s special about Unai is the way he communicates.
“In his talks, he used to write three, four or five things on the board: those were the points he was going to bring up. Sometimes it was five phrases or metaphors he was going to explain. I’ve never seen that with my other managers.”
The Spaniard adds: “They usually revolved around phrases about positivity, camaraderie, the values he wanted to create in his team. He communicated by means of the points he had written down.
“His talks could go on and on because he didn’t notice the time, but what he said was always intense, and he would ask you questions. It became a kind of seminar.”
Mata is one of the numerous players at Old Trafford who will soon be out of contract. Serving under three gaffers at in Manchester, he has been the rare post-SAF presence that has retained his brilliance. However, this may not prove to be enough to sustain his spot in the starting lineup week in and week out.
Is a reunion with Emery imminent?