Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho confirmed that the club is ‘monitoring’ the availability of Spain midfielder Cesc Fabregas this summer.
The Barcelona star and former Arsenal captain is the subject of speculation that he could leave his boyhood club and return to the Premier League (where he spent eight years with the Gunners), with the Blues strong favourites to sign him.
However, Mourinho did not just confirm the Blues’ interest in Fabregas, but he also spoke about his admiration for Frank Lampard, who is set to leave after 13 years at Chelsea. And, in doing so, the Portuguese boss may have made a slight on former Blues playmaker Juan Mata, who signed for Manchester United in January for a club-record fee.
'There are midfield players who are specialists', said Mourinho. "You have the anchor man, the 'six', you have the No 10 – the player people say is 'the creative'. He creates, but he doesn't defend. Because of that, you go to the kids, everybody wants to be No 10, and in the academies, the parents [they tell their kids], 'you be a No 10, stay close to the striker and score goals, don't work for the team'. Just be the creative'.
Mata found it hard to cement his place in the team at Stamford Bridge since the Portuguese manager's return to Chelsea last summer and was subsequently sold. While the Spaniard’s creativity was never in doubt – Mata had one of the highest assist records and best pass completion rates in the Premier League for a number of seasons – there were concerns from the 'Special One' over his specialism.
Mata is not a midfielder who will, as Mourinho states, work for the team in terms of defensive responsibility, but do his comments, whether in relation to Mata or Lampard, suggest what the boss could be expecting of Fabregas should he sign for Chelsea?
Fabregas was Arsenal’s most creative player and operated in that No.10 role for the Gunners during his time there, but upon moving back to Barcelona, he has functioned as a ‘false 9’ or effectively a pretend centre-forward, a No. 10 and even a defensive midfielder. Fabregas is not shy to make challenges and tackles, and has developed a greater sense of tactical positioning and shape since moving to Barcelona.
I suspect that Mourinho means this as no slight on Mata, but of course this does correlate with the reasons the Spain midfielder was sold to United. I suspect that if his national teammate Fabregas was to sign for Chelsea this summer, then he will be well aware of what the manager expects him to do for the team.