Chelsea’s Frank Lampard has paid tribute to the departing Juan Mata after suggesting he was an unfortunate victim of a midfield selection problem for Jose Mourinho.
The Spaniard's dignified move from Chelsea to Manchester United should ensure he receives a positive reception whenever he returns to Stamford Bridge, with Lampard’s warm words for his former teammate confirming there is plenty of affection left over for the playmaker at the Blues.
“Juan Mata’s an absolutely fantastic player and, more than that, he’s a great lad, so I wish him all the best personally,” Lampard told the Chelsea website.
“The difficult thing here is that there are so many brilliant players. Oscar’s been fantastic this season, as has [Eden] Hazard.
“Willian’s shown it as well and we’ve got so many riches in that position, but you need performances like the one we got from Oscar and his free-kick [against Stoke in the FA Cup on Sunday] was top drawer.”
Lampard went on to suggest Mourinho has not fully found his feet in his second spell as Chelsea boss, as admitted it has taken some time for the returning Blues boss to stamp his authority on the club’s current set of players.
“There’s a good feeling around the place,” he said. “With the manager coming back, it probably took a while for him to get his points across, but we’ve found that mentality and feeling in the dressing room in the last couple of months where we’re going out there with more confidence.
“We have to keep that up because the minute you drop that the results will turn, so we need to keep at it and carry on this form.”