Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Grant cannot fathom Mata exclusion

Juan Mata is struggling to hold down a regular first-team place at Chelsea this term

Former Chelsea manager Avram Grant cannot understand why Jose Mourinho has marginalised Juan Mata, but insists the Spaniard still has a future at Stamford Bridge.

Mata, last season's player of the year, was omitted from the squad altogether for Saturday's 2-0 Barclays Premier League victory over Fulham, placing his future under renewed doubt.

Napoli are reported to be considering an approach in January and it has been reported that Mourinho's sparing use of the playmaker has caused friction with owner Roman Abramovich.

"I personally don't understand (why he left Mata out)," Grant told 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.

"Mata was one of the best players in the midfield in the last year.

"A manager needs to take a decision and in this case it's a tough decision. Jose will know how to manage them well."

Asked if Mata had a future at Chelsea, Grant added: "I think yes. He's a great player, he's won games, gave assists and scored goals.

"Chelsea have many players in this position, maybe one more than they need, but that can also be an advantage."

Grant succeeded Mourinho when the Portuguese was sacked in 2007, but his own reign lasted just one season.

Abramovich is reported to have a significant say on team selection and transfer targets at Stamford Bridge, but Grant insists it is the manager who calls the shots.

When asked how often Abramovich interfered in picking his side, Grant responded: "Never. He didn't do it and I don't think he did it with any manager. This is a story that isn't true.

"Abramovich has spent a lot of money at Chelsea and so has the right to say his opinion.

"But at the end of the day the manager made the decisions and he never said do this or that.

"When we spoke about football he'd say what his opinion is, but so did the chief executive. But it was the manager's decision and he would support that decision.

"No one can complain because managers know his philosophy, they know when they sign what will happen if they don't do well.

"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."

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