Why is Juan back in Manchester?

Thursday 29 June 2023 14:00

Juan Mata is back in England this week, with the former Reds midfielder set to take part in the Manchester International Festival.

The 35-year-old departed M16 last summer - after eight years at the club - and recently won the 2022/23 Turkish Super League with current club Galatasaray.

Back in the Manchester area for circumstances away from football, the Spaniard is combining his love for both the beautiful game and art with an appearance at the upcoming MiF, with Juan set to debut his multi-part project 'The Trequartista: Art and Football United'.

Having collaborated with curator Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Mata is working with the German-Indian artist Tino Sehgal on a special piece of performance art. The exhibition is set to open later this month at the National Football Museum and will also feature at the Whitworth Gallery.
Juan alongside artist Tino Sehgal.
Speaking to BBC's Morning Live team this morning, the former Red expressed his joy at being back in a city he holds dear.

"I feel at home, yes,’’ said Juan. ‘’When I was coming back last night, I was feeling the energy already.

"I lived for so many years here. I have so many friends [here]. So I feel at home here. I'm so happy to be here."
Quizzed as to why he has become so engrossed in the world of art, Mata told of his passion for trying other things away from the world of football.

"I will say it's just curiosity, just feeding my curiosity. I like to do things far from football, sometimes to disconnect, and I got to know people in the art world and that's why we started this.

"This exhibition has been so fun. It's been a learning process for me, but a very nice journey and I'm enjoying it."
Much like his day-to-day profession, Juan will be helping a team of 11 individuals to bring his exhibition to life.

"We started because Hans Ulrich, who is the artistic director at the Serpentine in London, the Serpentine Gallery, he's always trying to connect different worlds, and he's trying now to connect the art world with football,’’ Mata further added.

"We got to know each other and we're doing this together. And I think it's it's nice to actually show people the connection between these two different sectors.

"I've been playing football for all my life. I can have some experience in there. He's, of course, one of the best creators in the world. So we are we are doing this together and we just try to make people happy and make them have fun. That's what I did."

The Spaniard made a total of 285 appearances for the Reds from 2014-2022.
The project has combined art and football's interpretation of the 'trequartista', a number-10 role often seen as the creator or link between both midfield and attack that helps find space in advanced positions.

A role we saw Juan occupy so well for United, the exhibition is available to view in the city from 29 June - 16 July.