Mata: There's no better feeling than scoring a goal
If there’s one thing Juan Mata knows, it’s how to create a goal for a team-mate.
The Spaniard has laid on exactly 50 assists in the Premier League since first coming to England with Chelsea in 2011, carving out a reputation as one of the game’s most creative playmakers.
It may come as a surprise, then, to read that Juan much prefers scoring goals to setting them up.
Our midfielder explains how finding the net makes him feel, as well as the intricacies behind a successful goal, in the final extract from his new autobiography ‘Juan Mata: Suddenly A Footballer’...
“There is no better feeling in a football game than scoring a goal. Period. For a goalkeeper, saving a penalty might come close, but the feeling in that split second in which the ball crosses the line is unrepeatable. It is the orgasm of football, especially when it’s an important goal.
”Many times I’ve been asked if providing an assist feels as good. No chance. Like a penalty for the keeper, the feeling of laying on an assist is great, but it is never the same as scoring.
“Playing that final pass is a brilliant feeling, particularly when all your team-mate needs to do is to push the ball into an empty net. Knowing that you’ve made a key contribution to a match gives you a real buzz, of course. And then there is the assist before the assist. In a football world fed by millions of stats, this is the one that can be missed. The pass before the final pass.
“Sometimes, that ‘pre’ pass is the most important one, although it does not count as an assist. Well, for me, it should, or at least people should acknowledge how important that action is. I will try to explain what I mean with one example.
”The number ten in a team sees the left-back running and making a movement in behind the opponents’ defence line, and places the perfect ball for him/ her where nobody can defend. Then the left-back squares the ball to the striker, who reads the movement and is alone. Goal.
“Who would claim the assist? Obviously the left-back. Which was the most important pass of the move to break the defence? The one from the number ten. Why does nobody count it? Stats are facts. Are real. Sure. But they don’t show everything that happens on a football pitch. Or at least not all the important things.
“The pass before the assist can be the pass. Another important aspect of an assist is that you rely completely on your team-mates. You can make a fantastic pass and leave the striker alone against the goalkeeper, but if it doesn’t end up being a goal, there is no assist to claim.
“Other times, you make an easy two yard pass in the middle of the pitch to a team-mate, he/she takes the ball and dribbles past three players and finishes with a goal and, as crazy as it sounds, you can claim that assist.
“That’s the risk of only analysing a game (or a season) from the stats. For that matter, and if we are talking here about judging a player’s performance, the best way to do it for me is not only based on stats, but through the eyes, watching him or her play.
JUAN’S BOOK IS OUT NOW
Juan Mata is proud to support Common Goal which aims to unite the global football community in tackling the greatest social challenges of our time. He is giving 99 per cent of his proceeds from this book to this cause.
Why 99 per cent? Read the book to find out.
'Juan Mata: Suddenly A Footballer' is on sale now from the Manchester United club store.