MLS: Could Juan Mata be a Success in Major League Soccer?
Many Premier League regulars have made the move to Major League Soccer over the last decade with varying degrees of success. The likes of Thierry Henry, Robbie Keane, Wayne Rooney, and perhaps more unexpectedly, Liam Ridgewell, have all enjoyed reasonably profitable spells in North America, and many more fellow professionals are likely to follow in their footsteps. Manchester United’s Juan Mata is the latest name to be linked with a move to the MLS and many believe that the classy Spaniard would slot in seamlessly.
Juan Mata for Valencia and Man United:
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⚽ 90 goals
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Will be Remembered fondly by both clubs. pic.twitter.com/kyrKl1J6HB
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 11, 2019
Although Major League Soccer has largely moved away from its policy of recruiting aging Europeans, the 32-year old still has plenty to offer, and until recently, has been playing regularly in the English top flight. He’s enjoyed plenty of success during his glittering career including securing two FA Cups, and he has both a Champions League and Europa League medal to his name. He was also linked with a move to Barcelona prior to pitching up at Old Trafford.
He’s also enjoyed a triumphant international career and picked out Spain’s 2010 FIFA World Cup success as the highlight of his footballing career. He helped La Roja lift the Jules Rimet Trophy at Soccer City in Johannesburg with Andres Iniesta’s 116th-minute winner edging Mata’s men past the Netherlands. Although the former Valencia midfielder was understandably delighted with the outcome, it was a bitter blow for the Oranje, who have subsequently endured a lean spell. However, under Ronald Koeman, the current Dutch side are much improved and have been installed as one of the early favorites for Euro 2021 in the Space Casino football betting markets. Their 2010 conquerors Spain are available at fractionally larger odds of 8/1.
Although Mata hasn’t been linked to a specific franchise, many analysts believe that the playmaker would be a huge success in Major League Soccer. Not only has he got the perfect temperament to succeed, he is likely to enjoy far more space, as well as ample time on the ball. The former Chelsea midfielder has never been particularly fast, and at 32 years of age, he won’t want to be sprinting up and down the field. He’s also incredibly effective from a set-piece situation, and this is something that will come in extremely handy over the course of an MLS campaign. Although the quality of soccer in the USA has exponentially improved over that last five years, Mata is still likely to find plenty of space in the opposition half and it’s an area in which he can prove incredibly effective.
Although he remains very popular with both Chelsea and Manchester United fans, the main criticism aimed at the midfielder is his lack of physical prowess. The Premier League is one of the toughest competitions in the world, and Mata is likely to be allowed far more time to pick out a pass and dictate play in the MLS.
An extremely down-to-earth character, Mata is unlikely to divide the dressing room, and will not take the opportunity for granted. Some top European players have pitched up in Major League Soccer with the wrong attitude, and that has inevitably proved to be their undoing. However, it is highly unlikely that the affable Spaniard will arrive with a similar mindset.
Some European players have struggled to acclimatize to the rigors of this competition, however, Juan Mata looks to be the perfect fit. He is universally popular, and still has plenty to offer future employers. With his charity work and community-minded approach, he is likely to be a huge asset both on and off the field, and if he decides to take the plunge and make the move, he should be a roaring success in Major League Soccer.