Juan Mata says he could see Andre Villas-Boas again stepping into his former mentor Jose Mourinho's shoes to take over at Real Madrid someday.
The current frosty relationship between Mourinho and Villas-Boas, who worked together at Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan, has again become a topic of conversation in Spain after an interview aired on Portuguese TV channel RTP on Tuesday night.
When asked to pick out Portugal's other top coaches, Mourinho named his current assistant at Real Madrid, Rui Faria, along with Greece boss Fernando Santos. Asked whether he saw something of himself in Tottenham Hotspur boss Villas-Boas, Mourinho responded with a flat "no".
Mata told reporters after Spain training on Wednesday that he had been impressed by Villas-Boas, 35, during their brief time together at Chelsea last season.
Asked if the Spurs coach could take charge of Madrid one day, he replied: "I believe that Villas-Boas is a great coach, modern and young, but with experience and trophies, even though at Chelsea things did not all go well for him.
"He was always good with me. We had a good relationship and I will always appreciate that. He is a coach capable of taking on any team."
The in-form attacker also suggested Mourinho could be a possible replacement for Chelsea's current - interim - coach Rafa Benitez.
"At Chelsea they still have a happy memory of Mourinho," he said. "He did very well there - trophies were won and the fans remember him very well. Having said that, today Mourinho is the coach of Real Madrid, and Benitez is at Chelsea. We must focus on that."
Pressed if he thought Mourinho could be back at Stamford Bridge sooner rather than later, Mata did not give much away.
"Of course Mourinho is one of the best coaches around, but I do not know what will happen," he said. "At the moment, I am enjoying working under Benitez, and his way of coaching."