Juan Mata for Esquire España

According to Marca, Juan Mata is a crack for showing his appreciation to the Valencia fans that have supported him the past four years with a public farewell…  In honor of Juan Mata’s move to Chelsea (and the fact that he is in fact a crack), I’ve translated the article on him in September’s Esquire España. Don’t forget to check out the behind-the-scenes video (and translation) at the bottom of this post!

Según Marca, Juan Mata es un crack al mostrar su agradecimiento a la afición de Valencia al comparecer públicamente para decir adiós como cree que se merecen… En honor del fichaje de Juan Mata al Chelsea (y por ser un crack), he traducido su entrevista con Esquire España. ¡Sigan leyendo para ver el vídeo making of de su sesión de fotos!

The footballer, who has just signed for Chelsea FC, in a fashion spread for Esquire, told us exclusively that despite his age, he has achieved many important things, but that he wants to continue to grow.

For whoever is responsible for his public relations, Juan Mata (Burgos, 1988) must be a dream come true. I knew coming to this interview that this world champion in South Africa – and of Europe this summer with the U-21 team – was an accessible guy with a good head on his shoulders, of whom people say things like “he doesn’t seem to be a footballer,” but I still have to admit that I was surprised when we said goodbye. After sharing a long photo session with him, including the styling and wardrobe selection, I found that he behaves the same whether the tape recorder is on or off. To top it all off, he manages his social network accounts himself.  As I said before, he is godsend for those in charge of his PR.  Perhaps his maturity comes from the experiences of his father, Juan Manuel, who was also a footballer. Salamanca, Burgos, Oviedo, Cartagena… these were some of the places where this globetrotting professional made a living. “He’s given me advice before, but fortunately, he has never been the typical overbearing father,” the player says affectionately. “He would take me to my training sessions even though my mother used to say that one footballer at home was enough. It doesn’t surpise me, since there was so much moving around…” But, every cloud has a silver lining, and Juan has never minded packing his suitcases, and everything points to the fact that he could be packing his bags.

The name Mata is one of those that comes up often when the conversation turns to the few opportunities that Real Madrid gives to the players from its cantera, which he joined at the age of 15 “scared shitless, although my parents had a tougher time with it.” In spite of this, he defends his years in the “Casa Blanca.” He says, with what appears to be more than just plain courtesy, “they treated me very well, and if I’m here now, it’s partly because of them.” In fact, there was only one problem: in Valencia, a team playing in the Champions League, they offered him a place on their first team, while Madrid told him to wait for his opportunity, which everyone knows will more likely never arrive.

Many would not have had to think about it twice… or maybe, because his first year in the club was tough. “I always describe it as my master’s degree in football,” he says, with a look of anguish. It was not only because it was his first experience in a professional locker room – “there, nobody looked out for anyone else” – ruled by strong personalities such as Marchena or Cañizares, but also because the season was tumultuous, even by the standards of Valencia. “It’s a cliché,” he says, “but it’s true that when you have a season such as the last one, good but not extraordinary, it’s the same as not having accomplished anything. I don’t know if that was the reason, but this is a great club; however, people only talk about the problems.” Nevertheless, 2007-08 was a good year for him in terms of football, due to the arrival of Koeman in substitution of Quique Sánchez Flores (who was later released). He got playing time, the team won the Copa del Rey, and he began to earn the respect of his teammates. “One of the first ones to give me a chance was Cañizares, who remembered playing against my father. I think that was the moment when he started to think about retiring…”

It’s only been three years since that season (and eight since he left home for the first time), and in that time, his life has moved forward so fast that most people would suffer vertigo if it happened to them. In his club, he has become an indisputable reference after the exit of players such as Villa or Silva, and this season, he’s worn the captain’s armband. This has helped him become one of the fixed players in the call-ups of Aragonés and del Bosque since his debut in 2009. “My relationship with the national team is that of a loves tory, I’ve played in all the categories and they’ve all been incredible experiences,” he says before confirming that the myth of the good atmosphere in the concentraciones of La Roja are in fact true, despite the recent issues between the Madrid and Barcelona players. “Within two days of training, you see the national team Ramos and Piqué, not those from Real Madrid and Barcelona.”

This summer, he took a step forward in brilliantly leading the U-21 team to glory and achieving qualification for the London Olympic Games next year, “without a doubt, one of my goals for this season.” However, no one knows at the moment whether this season will unfold in Mestalla or in another field, such as Emirates Stadium. “I’ll leave that in the hands of my agent and the club,” he repeats, mechanically. It’s best not to dwell too much on the issue, although it’s clear that he doesn’t mind in the least staying with Valencia, but he’s conscious that the situation of the club may require a transfer, and England is an acceptable choice for him if it does come to that, not only professionally, but also personally.

Off the field, Mata says he’s a simple guy, who doesn’t like to live in excess. He splurges only when it comes to family or to share a trip with his friends from Asturias in the summer. “It’s the one of the few things that I miss, since I love traveling and when they tell me they were in this place or that one during the season, I get frustrated. But I don’t consider it a sacrifice because I love what I do even more.” He confesses he wouldn’t be able to handle the fame that Cristiano Ronaldo has, since his mantra is “normality, normality.”

The photo session ends (which he announces via Twitter, of course). While he changes, one of my co-workers comes up to me to tell me how smoothly the session had gone, “like silk. He’s such a… normal guy.” How sad, I think, that in football, this is what gets people’s attention as unusual.

~~~

The future.

No, it doesn’t frighten me. I take things calmly, with my feet on the ground, knowing that at the age I am right now, I’ve achieved important things, but I don’t want to rely on my previous achievements, I want to contiue to grow and improve.

Being a world champion.

Well, I was fortunate enough to live it first hand. I feel privileged to have been there, to have lived an unforgettable month, and to have made history for our country and for football.

Football and fasion.

Footballers always like fashion and wearing the latest trends. I’m not addicted to it, but I do like it.

Hi, I’m Juan Mata, and I want to send my regards to all of Esquire’s readers.

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