Few things have caused such a stir around the European football scene as the Portuguese tactician’s lack of preference for the diminutive Spaniard, and the situation has only become more complicated with the admission that the playmaker deserves to be on the pitch.
Yet even as the Blues' ranks remain swollen with attacking midfield talent the likes of Willian and Oscar, is there really only nine appearances’ worth of space for Mata in the current roster at Stamford Bridge?
“Juan deserves to play,” Mourinho has now told the media as he continues to face unceasing questions on his choice to leave out his club’s two-time running player of the year.
"I can't change the rules, I can't start the match with 12, 13 or 14 players.
"'I have to leave players out because I can't start with 15 players. It's a good problem because I have so many good options."
And given that the ‘Special One’ has now resorted to mathematics of all things in pursuit of an answer for the press, sooner or later something is going to have to give for the London outfit, or rather for Mata himself.
Juventus and Atletico Madrid are the latest clubs to be paired with a move for his signature come January, and in a World Cup year for a player vying for a spot in an historic Spain side bound for Brazil, how could one blame him for forcing a move away from Chelsea through?
It’s become only increasingly clearer as the season has progressed that Mourinho, wrong or right, doesn’t see the 25-year-old as suitable for his tactical set-up, especially as he missed out once more at the weekend against West Ham United, and would be only ludicrous to suggest that Mata doesn’t see the writing on the wall.
Meanwhile the Chelsea faithful remain almost in mourning for one of their favourites, but with Mourinho only just having returned to Stamford Bridge and firmly in control of who receives the minutes available, there appears to be is little that can be done this side of a massive change of heart from the two-time Champions League-winning manager.
Of course, Mata could take a punt on the Portuguese being relieved of his post by Roman Abramovich by the end of the campaign should silverware not arrive, but such a gamble doesn’t seem prudent considering the timing of the World Cup cycle and the score of clubs that would be delighted to count him in their ranks.
Mourinho’s maths have only served to suggest a departure is impending, even if the midfielder has before stated he is happy to fight for his place at Chelsea, as Mata remains on the outside looking in.
So don’t be surprised as the rumour mill continues firing with respect to the Spain international as the winter transfer window draws nearer, because Mourinho looks no closer to reconsidering his position, and it can’t be too much longer before the player must take matters into his own hands and take his undeniable talents elsewhere.
image: © Ben Sutherland