Jose Mourinho has suggested that Juan Mata is likely to continue to be on the fringes of Chelsea’s first XI for the foreseeable future, as he continues to be linked with a move away from the club. The regular absence from the starting lineup of Chelsea’s Player of the Year of the past two seasons has been one of the main talking points of Mourinho’s second spell at Stamford Bridge.
The Spain international has started just five times in the Premier League, and just one of the club’s four Champions League clashes. And, ahead of Chelsea’s meeting with Basel in Switzerland, Mourinho admitted that Mata remains behind Oscar and Eden Hazard in the pecking order.
"There is one thing that is obvious, which is I can't change the rules and I can't start the match with 12, 13 or 14,” he said, according to Sky Sports. "I'd love that because many people deserve to play and Juan is one who deserves to play because of the way he works, behaves, the way we see him every day.
"But if I play him and I don't play Hazard or Oscar, you are asking me about Hazard or Oscar in this moment.
"It's a consequence of the squad we have where, for these positions behind the striker, we have so many options. It's hard for me. I don't have a special pleasure leaving players out. I enjoy playing them and making them happy, but there's nothing I can do."
Mata has been regularly linked with a move away from the club since it became clear that he was not an integral part of Mourinho’s plans. The latest speculation comes from the Sunday People, which claims that Juventus and Atletico Madrid are interested in taking him on loan in January. Mata is said to be fearful of missing out on Spain’s World Cup squad.
If reports are to be believed, Chelsea could also be keen to bolster their squad in the upcoming transfer window. Portuguese publication A Bola reports that Chelsea sent a scout to watch Porto duo Jackson Martinez and Nicolas Otamendi in action at the weekend.
There remain doubts about Chelsea’s options up front and Martinez could be targeted, having scored at a prolific rate since joining Porto from Chiapas in the summer of 2012. However, the 27-year-old will not come cheap, with Porto having refused an approach from Napoli in the last transfer window and refusing to let him leave for less than his €40 million (£33.5m) release clause.
And, like Otamendi, he would also be cup-tied for the Champions League. Center-back Otamendi has been at Porto since turning out for Argentina in the 2010 World Cup.
Another area of the squad that Mourinho may well be keen to add to is midfield. Marco van Ginkel has been ruled out for the long term with a cruciate ligament injury, while Michael Essien has barely featured since returning from a loan spell at Real Madrid.
The Blues have been regularly linked with a move to bring former midfielder Nemanja Matic back to Stamford Bridge in recent months, but it appears that such a deal will prove costly. According to the Daily Mirror, Benfica want £20 million for the man who has made a big impression in Portugal since leaving Chelsea in 2011 as part of the deal that sent David Luiz the other way. Manchester United are also said to be interested in the 25-year-old.