By Suhas BhatFollow @@suhasrbhat
Juan Mata's impending transfer to Manchester United has surprised many as the Spaniard was one of Chelsea's best players in recent years. However, a number of reasons have conspired to make the 25-year-old's life miserable at Stamford Bridge and therefore a move to Manchester comes as a welcome opportunity.
United also are in need of a player of Mata's calibre as currently their midfielders appear bereft of inspiration and do need a mid-season talisman in the manner of Paul Scholes in the 2011/12 Barclays Premier League campaign.
It would, however, require them to amend their long-standing tradition of attacking from out wide. Such a move would appeal to manager David Moyes, though, as the narrow approach was often necessary at former club Everton because wingers were often hard to come by.
Moreover, a new acquisition could reinvigorate flagging morale at the club while it could also provide added competition in a midfield that has lost its edge following the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson and his disciplinarian ways.
But it also makes sense for Chelsea.
The development of the Chelsea midfield surplus
Jose Mourinho was appointed last year and given a dearth of midfield talent in Oscar, Mata, Eden Hazard, Andre Schurrle, Willian, Victor Moses, Oriol Romeu, Kevin De Bruyne, Frank Lampard, John Obi Mikel, Michael Essien and Ramires.
So naturally, the Portuguese felt the need for another midfielder.
To understand why Nemanja Matic was signed last week, you have to know three interesting things about Chelsea: 1) The club is fragmented into many different departments with competing interests 2) Roman Abramovich likes to appoint the figureheads (the manager and the striker) but doesn't meddle elsewhere and 3) each of the eight managers in the Abramovich era have influenced the team's footballing knowledge.
This has meant that signing strikers has proven to be a tricky affair for a new manager who has often had to be content with bringing in a new midfielder (or two) to influence the attack.
And during the club's managerless periods, the machinations of other departments have rumbled on - they do need to justify their wages somehow - leading to the acquisition of marquee players such as Oscar and Eden Hazard.
Furthermore, whenever a new manager has joined the club, Chelsea have often given the new man the license to bring in a player of his choosing. Mourinho has chosen to bring in a new midfielder even as a number of well-paid footballers in the same position are currently earning five-figure sums and watching idly from the sidelines.
But such extraneous spending is problematic in the era of Financial Fair Play regulations and therefore Mata's exit could prove to be a timely arrangement.
Mourinho's revolution will take no prisoners
While Frank Lampard and John Terry are the natural leaders of the group, the fact that the England international's fitness has waned in recent years means that he cannot exert as much of an influence as he did in Mourinho's previous tenure.
This has led to a leadership vacuum in the side as Terry cannot rampage up the pitch in order to dictate play in the attacking third.
Mata has quietly risen to the fore and occupied this berth as his humble nature, diligent running and astute passing has seen him naturally take on the role of midfield general.
Oscar and Hazard, the club's darling wunderkinds, are much too keen to impress with their dribbling and do not take the time to observe the passage of play and see the bigger picture.
Many of the new generation of Chelsea players have also taken a liking to the ex-Valencia man as he is not as intimidating a figure as those from the old guard. Mata probably understands their concerns as he's been through them all himself - he has acclimatised to the English weather, dealt admirably with his surge in popularity with nary a mention in the tabloids and he has carefully navigated the internal faultlines within Chelsea so as to not offend anyone.
However, the only problem has been that on the pitch, he's very much the opposite of this personality as he plays with a level of freedom that could break the Roman phalanx-like mentality that allowed Mourinho's teams to stay unbeaten for over 150 home games.
Wanting to remain top dog, Mourinho has probably decided that Mata's departure would signal a turning point which would allow him to firmly grab hold of the reins at Stamford Bridge much like how he felt the need to ship out Juan Sebastian Veron on loan to Inter Milan back in 2004.
The Argentinean stayed on in Italy for a further season even as many commentators opined that it was a foolish decision on the part of 'the Special One'.
An enemy of an enemy is a 'frenemy'
The key point picked up by most outlets has been the fact that Manchester United have already played Chelsea twice in the league but have yet to play Manchester City and Arsenal a second time.
Given that these are the two clubs that are likely going to challenge the Blues for the championship, the loss of a talented midfielder will not seem as important if he does help stunt the progress of their competitors.
Mata has always been a steadfast Chelsea supporter and will likely play his heart out in these games when they do take place. And although this whole saga has been an unfortunate affair, it has not been an acrimonious parting like how Emmanuel Adebayor, Robin van Persie or Samir Nasri endured when they left Arsenal. (It appears Arsene Wenger doesn't do goodbyes.)
Furthermore, Mourinho is in need of a striker and it can be expected that even Abramovich won't come in the way of a sensational summer-long pursuit of Wayne Rooney who may not be altogether pleased with life under Moyes, especially if the Red Devils fail to qualify for the Champions League.
At least, the lines of communications have been firmly opened and now it's just a matter of seeing how the developments unfold.
Rooney (possibly) at Chelsea and Mata at United?
In any other year, it would have sounded preposterous but this has definitely been a season of change.