Although the Greek built wooden horse was forever laden with potential misery for the gullible folk of Troy, it was only when they accepted it within their own city walls that anarchy could ensue. Had they refused to entertain the bait, who knows what fate Troy may have known.
“Do not trust the horse, Trojans! Whatever it is, I fear the Greeks, even bringing gifts.”
When dealing with a club all too aware of the ghastly ramifications that come with a foreseen risk, Manchester United would have been forgiven for questioning Chelsea’s motives behind a transfer that could have been a wooden horse all of its own. This acquisition required a record breaking transfer fee for the buying club, and concerned a player of a footballing background the like of which had never featured prominently in the club’s illustrious past. Furthermore, under the tutelage of a manager rumoured to be carrying a chip upon his shoulder at being overlooked for his United counterpart’s job, Juan Mata had hardly played a suitable number of games considering the reputation he generated. The deal was as much a loaded gun as a Trojan horse.
The susceptible victims only three years ago, Chelsea’s splurging of £50million on Fernando Torres was not a motivated act of aggression by the selling club Liverpool, or a deliberate sabotage by a crafty insider at Stamford Bridge. It’s difficult to comprehend that the club at which the player had reached his personal peak didn’t have an inclination that ‘El Nino’ may well have been worth relatively less than the proposed outlay. However, Liverpool put the number before Chelsea and perhaps with slight reservation but ultimate conviction they matched it. Ninety-nine league games later and Torres has yet to hit 20 Premier League goals for a gullible Chelsea. Perhaps the only solace taken on Chelsea’s behalf is that £35 of their £50 million paid to Liverpool was wasted on a Trojan horse of Liverpool’s own. As with the Greek’s before them, this horse often has a way of kicking out at the initial aggressor.
Reading Daniel Taylor’s article in The Guardian regarding the work undertaken on Ed Woodward’s part to assure that Man Utd bought Juan Mata from Chelsea without ever risking the loss of the highly sought after Wayne Rooney, one becomes aware that although this classical ploy highlights the canny nature of military technique, it none the less presents a contemporary concern for those who refuse to be duped. In never opening direct lines of communications with Chelsea – the transfer of Mata to United progressed largely as a result of third-party agents etc. – Woodward refused to ever be drawn into a negotiation that allowed Rooney’s name to be brought up. With a nod to the preliminary work that was carried out, Woodward ensured that acquiring Mata would not sacrifice the stronghold that existed within the club.
Yet, where does Juan Mata stand in relation to this equestrian destroyer? It is my opinion that far from this transfer being a move manipulated by sinister motives, Mata’s transfer to Manchester United is a mutually beneficial move that highlights football’s humanity amid what can often appear to be sheer inanity. At £37 million, Chelsea have done well on their initial investment for a player who performed incredibly until the system changed and his wares were deemed surplus. For Manchester United, the long-term effects of Mata’s inclusion will be of secondary importance to the general aura of trust and progression that has been instilled in David Moyes’ shaky start as heir to Ferguson’s throne. To spend so lavishly on a player who is by no means a media starlet highlights the Glazer’s faith in Moyes’ footballing vision. Rarely does such a transfer suit both parties equally.
Of course, it was hardly Fernando Torres’ desire to deliver abject performances for the club that prized him so highly. Were Juan Mata to invariably ‘flop’ in the red of Manchester United, would he too be an overpriced nag? It is on this point that personal opinion takes over. Mata, like Van Persie, Rooney or Ferdinand before him, and unlike Veron or Berbatov, represents a footballer that seems destined to succeed regardless of the setting. To win Chelsea’s localised Player of the Year award twice in two seasons where European and Domestic honours were acquired illuminates the emotional capacity of a footballer unfazed by success and deeply yearning for fresh and exciting challenges. Although his success will only be measured by what he achieves, his genuine nature and pragmatic approach to a footballing career that has rendered material success unimaginable by most a consistent presence determines that unlike Torres, the number placed on his head will be as the number 8 is to him now, a manner of identifying him but by no means a deterrent that stifles what he is at Manchester United to do.
With Mata signalling an apparent first after the as of yet false start that was Fellaini, United fans have every right to feel optimistic again. Where once the future seemed bleak, Juan Mata signals a purposeful move for a player full of purpose.