Juan Mata at El Mundo’s La Otra Crónica
Attention girls: we have an eligible bachelor here. He’s 24 years old, athletic, stylish, educated, studious, prudent, nice… and has a weekly salary of about 90,000 euros. He answers to the name Juan Mata (Burgos, 1988), and in addition to being one of our world champions, he has become Chelsea’s most admired player. He doesn’t only break the mold on the field, but off of it: can you imagine a football star traveling on the Underground like a normal person? Or an athlete who prefers to read Murakami or Borges instead of playing Play? LOC spent an afternoon with him in an English pub as he did his duties as IWC’s spokesperson.
The New York Times chose you as the man of the moment for your style after the Eurocopa. What was your reaction?
That’s because I have two friends who work there (laughs). The truth is that it was a surprise, my two friends were joking around with me about it and I didn’t believe them but anyway… it’s a positive piece of news, no?
Are you fussy about what you wear?
The truth is not a lot, I like to dress simply and casually. I spend my days training and traveling, so I opt for comfortable clothes that you can use for any occasion, whether it’s sports or events or dinners…
And you also pay attention to your accessories, such as your IWC watch.
Well when I look at it I realize I have to value my time well (laughs). I like them because they work well with my style, that’s the truth.
What’s your life in London like? A friend of yours told me that you were like an Erasmus student with money, enjoying the city…
The life here is much more tranquil than it is in Spain. I can do many more things; it’s such a big city and there are a lot of people living here who don’t like football, so they don’t recognize you. You can take the Underground without any problems and in this city there are thousands of things to do: the theater, musicals, movies, parks… there’s a bit of everything here, and well, the truth is that I’m enjoying it a lot. Other than football and the training sessions, which are the most important things in my life, I try to take advantage of what I have around me.
You lived with your sister and I believe right now your dad is here as well. Do you miss your family a lot?
Well, they come frequently. My sister did live with me during a long while and now she travels a lot. My father and my mother also come quite often. There is a direct flight from Asturias, so they take advantage of it. And many relatives and friends also come, but I don’t know if it’s to see me or the city (laughs) but they come.
A journalist colleague of mine told me you’re the only footballer who knows who Bukowski is…
In addition to Bukowski, which other authors do you like?
I always try to bring along a book on the trips, of which there are many. They are usually by people such as Paul Auster, Murakami, Jorge Luis Borges…
The stereotype of a footballer is one who spends the day playing Play…
I have one, but I don’t play a lot, only when friends are visiting.
Do you see yourself as different from your teammates?
No, whatever. I don’t even try to be, that’s the truth. I try to do my best at training each day and also to be a normal guy, and to enjoy life because I am a fortunate person.
Another stereotype of footballers is that they have stunning girlfriends. Right now you’re single, no?
I’m very tranquil, that’s the truth. I have had two serious relationships in my life and right now I’m tranquil and enjoying my youth. I believe that’s what this moment calls for (laughs).
Do you want to start a family in the future?
I imagine I do, but right now I haven’t even thought about it because I believe I’m young and I have many things to do and a hectic lifestyle that I don’t believe a family would put up with. I believe I have to have time to enjoy it. I’ll think about it in the future…
Are you all afraid of the tabloids?
I’ve never thought about that, and I’m not worried about that. I try to live a normal life and to not do anything stupid, and that’s it. There’s nothing about my life that will fill newspapers.
There’s a saying that goes “No Mata, no party.” Do you like to go out?
When you can, it’s not bad. There are many days when there are birthdays or other things like that, that you can take advantage of to go out.
After games, how do you celebrate the goals?
If I have visitors at home, I take them out to eat so that they can try out the restaurants that are here. All my friends and family members love a good meal, so I can make them happy in this way.
Even though your team plays in London, it’s very Spanish…
Yes, we’re Spanish Chelsea. In addition to Rafa Benítez, there are four players, two doctors and a fisio. The good thing about that is that you have a lot of confidence, you know you’re with true friends, people from your country who speak the same language… The bad thing about it is that you never practice English because I of course speak to Fernando, Oriol and Azpilicueta in Spanish. But it’s normal because when you’re outside of your country, you’re drawn to your compatriots.
You and Oriol are neighbors. Do you get together to make paellas and those kinds of things?
Yes, sometimes we prepare dinners, lunches, we do things together… it’s true that he helped me a lot in the beginning.
What is your opinion on football players coming out?
I believe you have to consider it as something normal, because it’s part of society. I believe that in sports, as in any part of life, these things are normal and from my point of view, I have no problem with footballers coming out of the closet.
Justin Fashanu, one of the few Premier players who came out as gay, ended up committing suicide…
I didn’t know that. That’s quite shocking; of course it doesn’t have to be like that.
You’re 24, and you belong to a generation of Spanish youth who had to leave Spain. Do you view yourself as an immigrant?
Living here, you realize that amount of Spaniards who come and who continue coming. I have many acquaintances in London who are trying to find work, to learn English… unfortunately, work is hard to come by in Spain but I believe this is an enriching experience, for me and for those who come, because it means getting to know another culture, another language and you can return to Spain having experienced things that you wouldn’t have experienced otherwise.
Do you believe it’s ethical to pay exorbitant salaries like those in football?
Regarding football, which is the most moneymaking sport, there are many millions, an astronomical figure, and in the end the players are the principal actors. It’s true that a lot of money is made and I believe that in the end the salaries are in accordance with that. It’s also true that the figures are very important and even more so right now.
You played for Madrid’s youth team, would you like to return?
I haven’t thought about returning to Spain because I’m happy here and enjoying the opportunity of playing for a great team like Chelsea. I believe it’s a league that has allowed me to improve in many ways as a footballer, to improve aspects of my game that I hadn’t developed before.
Do you believe Mourinho will return to England?
I don’t know. It would be quite bold of me to speak about this issue considering he’s the coach of a club like Real Madrid.
For him, it’s going to be hard to choose between Casillas and Diego López…
I am not surprised at all that Diego is playing so well because I knew him from the national team and from Real Madrid. He’s a super professional, and was already playing at the maximum level when we were at Madrid…. and well, there’s nothing I can say about Iker. Mourinho will have to decide, and it will be difficult…
Another difficult decision: Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo?
They are two players who, fortunately and unfortunately, play during the same era. It’s fortunate because having competition makes you demand more of yourself, and unfortunate because they would be the greatest as they already are.
Do you feel more comfortable speaking about football than about personal issues?
No, perhaps I’m more used to it but I like to talk about things that aren’t football-related so that the interviews will be different.
You’re studying two subjects, physical education and marketing. What do you see in your future?
I haven’t thought about it, hopefully I will have a good career… I see myself doing something different than football, to tell you the truth. Everyone has his or her own hobbies and I am realizing what it is that I really like. I would like to learn something different in my life.
Javier Marías said that footballers are tragic figures, as they reach the heights of glory quickly and then later on have to live knowing that they’ll never get that high again…
It’s the reality, of course. When you end your football career, you’re still very young in terms of life. So you have to retrain yourself and be prepared. I don’t believe it will be easy because we have very active lives but if you keep your feet on the ground and your family and friends around you, it’s much easier. The important thing is not to get carried away.
To seduce him.
As Juan Mata himself reveals, he has only had two serious relationships in his life. One of them was with the Asturian Lorena Martínez. They dated during the World Cup and when Mata played for Valencia. She was often seen in the stands, although she was so discreet that not many knew about their relationship. Their relationship cooled when Mata moved to London, and now he’s single. Candidates should be knowledgable about literature or be a fan of Woody Allen to score points with him.
All together now: ¡¡porrrr favorrrrr!!