• Premier League

Mata axe baffles ex-Blues boss Grant

ESPN staff
September 23, 2013
Jose Mourinho insists Juan Mata must change his game before he can become an automatic pick for Chelsea again

Former Chelsea manager Avram Grant has expressed his confusion at Juan Mata's exile under Jose Mourinho but said he expected the forward to remain at Stamford Bridge.

There had been speculation throughout the summer that Mourinho was prepared to offload Mata, despite the playmaker having been key to Chelsea's success over the last two seasons, and while Chelsea have insisted, publicly and privately, that he is not for sale, doubts over his future remain.

Mourinho told his Friday press conference that Mata faced a battle for his place and left him out of the squad for the 2-0 win over Fulham the following day. The manager then repeated that Mata would "have to learn to play" the way he wants him to.

Grant, who took charge at Chelsea when Mourinho's first stint came to an end in 2007, said he did not "personally understand" why Mata was not in the coach's plans.

He continued on BBC Radio Five Live's Sportsweek programme: "But, in this position, Chelsea have so many players, so if Oscar, Eden Hazard or Willian are out, people will ask why they are out of the squad or team. A manager needs to take a decision and in this case it's a tough decision. Jose will know how to manage them well."

When asked whether he believed Mata had a future at the club, Grant replied: "I think yes. He's a great player - he's won games, gave assists and scored goals."

The Sunday People claimed Roman Abramovich is unhappy that Mourinho has sidelined Mata and Fernando Torres, and it has often been claimed over the years that the Chelsea owner has sought to influence team selection as well as selecting transfer targets.

However, Grant, who reached the Champions League final during his brief spell in charge, denied that is the case.

"He didn't do it and I don't think he did it with any manager," he said. "This is a story that isn't true. At the end of the day the manager made the decisions and he never said do this or that.

"I've known him a long time and he never took a decision against me. If a manager said: 'I don't want this player', he will not buy him."

Download ESPN's new UK sport app, a fresh and powerful new way to follow your favourite UK sports news, scores and video.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
ESPN staff Close