Recent good performances from Kevin De Bruyne and Juan Mata of Manchester City and United respectively, in addition to Chelsea’s worst league start since 1978, have one again called into question Jose Mourinho’s decision to sell the pair – but he did make the right call.
De Bruyne signed on the dotted line for the club on the blue side of Manchester for an eye-popping £55 million this summer which made him the second most expensive signing in British football history, (behind Manchester United’s £59.7 million buy of Angel di Maria last season), and, to use a cliche, has hit the ground running in his second stint in the Premier League.
He has scored three goals, assisted two, made 11 key passes and created 13 chances in the four games he has played in the league for his new club as the Citizens currently sit at the top of the table, two points clear of Arsenal and United and a further eight ahead of Chelsea.
This comes after a fantastic season in the Bundesliga where he registered 10 goals and 20 assists for Wolfsburg as they finished second, guaranteeing a spot in the Champions League for the first time since they won the German league back in 2009.
Without doubt, De Bruyne has talent, and, being only 24, he still has a long way in his career to go yet. Chelsea know he has great ability, it is why Andre Villas-Boas signed him from Belgian side Genk for £7 million back in 2012 after he impressed against the Blues in the Champions League.
It is a forgotten fact that De Bruyne wanted to stay in Germany in 2013, with a move to either Borussia Dortmund or Bayer Leverkusen looking likely on the back of a successful loan spell with Werder Bremen but a move never went through due to Mourinho’s insistence and willingness for De Bruyne to be part of the Chelsea set up.
De Bruyne started the Special One’s first competitive game back in charge at the Bridge, a 2-0 win over Hull City, in which he got an assist for Oscar’s goal.
What caused doubt in Mourinho’s mind however is De Bruyne’s attitude.
“He did not tell me he could not handle the pressure. He told me he wanted to play every weekend. I told him this is Chelsea, you are very young, you have Eden Hazard, you have Mata, you have Willian, you have (Andre) Schurrle, and I cannot promise you that”, Mourinho said.
“He was not training very well and he was saying: ‘I can’t give you more. This is just my way.’
“So yes, I accept that if this is his mentality and it’s his choice to go, it is better for Chelsea to make a good deal.”
Mourinho has also labelled De Bruyne as an “upset kid” saying that he was “crying every day to leave”.
“With De Bruyne, if you have a player knocking on your door and crying every day he wants to leave, you have to make a decision. At that time, Chelsea did well.
“If De Bruyne stayed here, not happy and not motivated, and we’d sold him after a year, we’d have got less – 50 per cent less than we sold him for.
“He was not ready to compete. He was an upset kid, training very bad.
“He always said he had trained well in his life, but he needs motivation to train well by playing every game.”
Where De Bruyne was not prepared to fight for a place at Chelsea, Mata simply did not fit into Mourinho’s way of thinking.
Again, there is no doubting the talent of Mata. Two Chelsea Player of the Year awards won back-to-back speak for themselves and it is understandable why supporters are still upset that a fan favourite left the club, but Mata does not track back and contribute as much to a team as Willian, Oscar, Pedro.
When Mata was at Chelsea, the west Londoners had a front three of him, Hazard and Oscar and that, along with Villas-Boas’ high line, left the team ruthlessly exposed at the back and they shed goals, even with a solid back four of Branislav Ivanovic, John Terry, Gary Cahill and Ashley Cole – all top defenders – with Petr Cech behind them.
Mourinho told The Telegraph in 2014 “with these assets or players who are not fundamental for me, it is where you – meaning, my club – have to do the best possible job for me. Is this easy to say when you are talking about very good players? It’s not easy.”
The quality of De Bruyne and Mata cannot be understated, and it is quality Chelsea sorely lack currently, but De Bruyne did not want to stay at Chelsea and Mata was not prepared to adapt his game for a new manager. Both had to go.