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Juan Mata Reveals How He Helped Inspire Chelsea’s Champions League Triumph in 2012

Chelsea's Spanish forward Juan Mata (C)
Juan Mata helped inspire Chelsea to Champions League glory in 2012 | ADRIAN DENNIS/Getty Images

Juan Mata’s time at Chelsea was just too short. The Spaniard moved to Stamford Bridge in 2011 and was shown the exit door in January 2014, despite two outstanding seasons in blue.

The two-time Player of the Season racked up 32 goals and 58 assists in his 135 appearances in all competitions, firmly establishing himself as a fan favourite before José Mourinho arrived and decided he could move on.

His debut season was… memorable. He was part of some of Chelsea’s lowest moments in recent Premier League history, but washed it all away by whipping in the corner which led to Didier Drogba’s famous equaliser in the 2012 Champions League final.

“The first year started really well for me, because even in my first game against Norwich, I scored straight away,” he recalls in an adidas & 90min podcast to celebrate the release of the new X Ghosted boot. “I came off the bench and scored.

“It wasn’t an easy season in terms of results in the Premier League, we didn’t do too well and that’s why André Villas-Boas, the manager who brought me to England, didn’t finish the season. Roberto Di Matteo took charge of the team and we won the FA Cup and the Champions League, which was probably one of the best seasons in Chelsea history.

“Being a part of that, playing a lot of games and being recognised as the Player of the Season from the fans, it was just incredible. To end up winning the Champions League – the first and so far only time Chelsea have won it – it was incredible.”

Didier DrogbaDidier Drogba
It was Drogba who netted from Mata’s corner | Alex Livesey/Getty Images

You don’t even have to be a Chelsea fan to appreciate the magic of that victory. The Blues were in disarray domestically but continued to will their way over the line in Europe, creating storybook moment after storybook moment.

As Drogba stepped up to take what would be the winning penalty, Gary Neville famously claimed that it was ‘written in the stars’, and that’s a feeling that Mata shared.

“I really felt it,” he says. “I really felt like it was destiny from early on. I think it was the last 16 against Napoli and we lost 3-1 away from home, but I felt okay. We’re going to go back to London and we’re going to come back. We’re going to win, and we did.

Juan MataJuan Mata
Mata won the trophy in his debut season | Alex Livesey/Getty Images

“After that, Benfica was difficult and then Barcelona, which was an incredible semi-final. They had a lot of chances, they missed the penalty. After that game, I knew it was destiny, especially when he had to play the final against Bayern Munich in Munich.”

The dream looked to be dead in the final as Thomas Müller headed Bayern into a deserved lead late on, at which point many Chelsea players looked deflated, and understandably so.

However, the ever-smiling Mata took it upon himself to pick his team up and reignite the fire, and it’s safe to say that it worked out pretty well.

Frank Lampard, Juan MataFrank Lampard, Juan Mata
Mata celebrates with current manager Frank Lampard | Alex Livesey/Getty Images

“In the final, when Thomas Müller scored in the 80th minute or so, I still felt okay,” he admits. “We still had time and we were going to have one chance to get back.

“I actually told Didier Drogba, who was almost giving up, I said, ‘Keep going. I don’t know why but I feel like we’re going to have one chance’, and then the corner came in and everyone knows what happened next. In that moment, the only thing going through my mind was ‘just put the ball in the box’. And he did the hard part.”

The adidas X podcast is available on audio platforms to download and listen here:

Source: 90mins

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