Chelsea winger Juan Mata may line up against one of his idols when he faces Premier League leaders Manchester United on Sunday after revealing his admiration for Old Trafford legend Ryan Giggs.
Mata, 23, has starred for the Blues since arriving from Valencia in August, dazzling the Stamford Bridge faithful with his mazy dribbling and penetrative pace – attributes that Giggs was renowned for at his pomp.
The Spain attacker was just a toddler when Giggs burst onto the scene 21 years ago but he says the Welshman – who broke his own record for being the oldest Champions League goalscorer at Benfica on Wednesday – was an inspiration to him growing up.
“He showed what he’s worth with his goal the other day,” Mata said. “He’s actually one of the best wingers that there has been and are around right now.
“I pay more attention to him because he plays in the same position I do. He’s an incredibly impressive player in his tackling, in his dribbling and in his general style.”
Chelsea travel to top-of-the-table United on Sunday unbeaten so far in 2011-12, though much of the focus at Stamford Bridge this season has been on Fernando Torres and his lack of goals.
In fact, Mata has already scored more goals in three games for Chelsea than Torres has managed in 23 matches for the Blues. But the former Valencia star insists his Spain team-mate is “still the same player” who shot La Roja to European Championship glory three years ago.
“He is a great player who has demonstrated in a number of matches that he can score a lot of goals,” Mata said. “Everyone goes through phases but I think this will be his season, it will be a season for him to score lots of goals and give his all.”