JUAN MATA interview ahead of 2014 World Cup
(May 28, 2014)
Juan Mata is a Laureus Ambassador and a member of the preliminary
30-strong Spanish squad for the World Cup. He has also played for
Valencia and Chelsea and currently plays for Manchester United.
Laureus editorial content is available for Print, Online and Broadcast use free of charge provided full credit is given, for example…‘Juan Mata speaking to Laureus.com’. Editors using this material are requested to carry a reference to Juan Mata’s work for the
Laureus Sport for Good Foundation in their stories
Question: We are a few days away from the World Cup. What makes the World Cup so special?
Juan Mata: The World Cup is the most important competition. When you are a football player and you want to play for your country, you always dream to play in a World Cup. This year, it's in Brazil, a proper football country, and for us it would be a dream to go there and to try to win again.
Question: You were part of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa as a very young player. What are your memories of that?
Juan Mata: Probably I have the best memories that I had in my career; winning the World Cup for the first time for Spain and being part of the squad was probably my best moment in my career and one of the best moments in my life.
Question: Presumably you are hoping to play a bigger role for Spain in the World Cup in 2014?
Juan Mata: I don't know. I think it's a privilege for every player to be here, to be in the 23 that travel to the World Cup and I will try my best as I always did.
Question: Now that you have been playing more regularly for Manchester United, will that help you to gain a place in the Spain team?
Juan Mata: The last three or four months for me were great. I played a lot. I scored some goals. So I'm looking forward to being there and to try my best for the team.
Question: What do you see as the great strength for the Spain team?
Juan Mata: I think we are like a family. We have known each other for a long time. We have played together for the last six, eight years. So we feel really comfortable between us, and I think this is the key.
Question: If Spain wins in Brazil, which means they have won two World Cups and two European Championships in succession, is that enough to say that they are the greatest ever national team?
Juan Mata: It would be something that nobody did before. So if we can win this World Cup, winning the South African one and two Euro Cups in a row, we will be talking about the most successful national team.
Question: Who do you see as Spain's main challengers for the World Cup?
Juan Mata: I think there are a lot of good teams. Probably Brazil, which is the favourite, and obviously Argentina, Holland, Germany, France, Italy, England, I think they can try to win. So a lot of teams.
Question: Do you think playing at home will help Brazil or will it put extra pressure on the team?
Juan Mata: They will have extra pressure for sure because they will feel the necessity of winning. But I think they will help; the crowd and all the people that go to the stadium, they will support them. So it will be better for them.
Question: Brazil coach Luiz Felilpe Scolari is very experienced and knows what it takes to win the World Cup. Is he a big asset?
Juan Mata: For sure. He has experience. He has won the World Cup with Brazil. He has managed a lot of teams and a lot of national teams. So I think he is the man who can try to win again with Brazil and with this squad.
Question: At Chelsea you played with four players who are in the Brazil squad, Oscar, Luiz, Ramieres and Willian. What is your view of them?
Juan Mata: All Brazilian players are very talented players and they have the quality. So I think this country has probably the best players in the history of football, or one of them. So they will be a very, very big rival for the rest of the squads.
Question: Where do you stand on the Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi debate. Who do you think is the No. 1?
Juan Mata: Difficult to say. Difficult to say, because every season, they improve each other and they challenge each other to be better. So last season, Cristiano Ronaldo was the best. In the last years, probably Messi was the best. So they are competing very, very close.
Question: Who do you think will be the other outstanding players in the World Cup that will exceed expectations?
Juan Mata: Hopefully some Spanish players. I would like to see, for example, Andrés Iniesta as one of the best in the World Cup. But there are some young players, as well that can surprise the world.
Question: You have played in the English League now for several years. Do you agree with England coach Roy Hodgson’s decision to select young players?
Juan Mata: I think they have great young players and they have a talented squad. For England to try to compete and to try to win the trophy, they have very good players, for example, Wayne Rooney, who is my team-mate now [at Manchester United]. He is a world?class player.
Question: Have young players like Adam Lallana, Raheem Stirling, Ross Barkley, Luke Shaw impressed you when you played against them in the English League?
Juan Mata: Yes, all of them, they are like, 20, 21, 22 at the most. Maybe they don't have the experience, but they have the talent. So I think what they need is a manager to give them confidence and I think Roy Hodgson does that.
Question: What about England? How well can they do?
Juan Mata: I think they can try to reach semi-final, final, try to win the title, because they have a very good 23 players going. I think they have a good manager, so why not.
Question: The English Premier League is very exciting but why does that not carry through to the national team?
Juan Mata: I think they have a lot of foreign players playing in the Premier League, as well. We come from Spain, Portugal, Argentina, wherever. We have a lot of foreign players in the Premier League, so that's why maybe.
Question: What do you know about the new Manchester United manager, Louis van Gaal?
Juan Mata: Well, I don't know. I never met him. But from everyone that speaks to me about him, everything is good. I think he's a very experienced manager. He likes to play in an offensive way, so hopefully he can bring success and trophies to the club and to the players.
Question: Are you confident that Manchester United will do much better next year?
Juan Mata: Yes, I hope so and I think so. It's been a difficult year for us, for the club, but I think this season we will improve and we will try to win again, because Manchester United is about winning and fighting for the titles.
Question: Can you tell us about your role as a Laureus Ambassador?
Juan Mata: Well, it's been a few years for me, collaborating with Laureus, and it's a pleasure for me, the work that they do for the children and for the people that need help around the world makes me feel proud of being in a relationship with them. So everything that I can do, I will do it for them.
Question: You joined another Laureus Ambassador, Luis Figo, for a visit to children in Madrid, can you tell us what happened there?
Juan Mata: Well, Luis and me, it was the first time that we met each other and we went to see children that have problems in their relationship with other people. So we went to a centre. It was a nice day for him and for me to know there are people who give their lives to help children like this, who can't act and can't communicate with other people normally. So Laureus is helping a lot of children around the world, not just in Spain. So that's why we feel very proud to be involved.
Question: Does anything stand out in your memory that touched you or moved you or inspired you?
Juan Mata: I think children are the future of the world, so anything that we can do with the children and with the next generation is important to try to help them. I will feel very, very proud and very happy with myself and with Laureus doing this.