As Juan Mata prepares himself for a second season in English football, he does so with more than a hint of his homeland in mind.
That is because we start our Barclays Premier League campaign at Wigan Athletic (today) Sunday, a side managed by Spaniard Roberto Martinez who have done plenty of shopping in La Liga over the past few weeks.
Discussing Martinez, who spoke to Liverpool about their vacant manager’s post over the summer, Mata feels the former midfielder is more recognised in his adopted country than he is back home.
‘He is more well known in England than he is in Spain, because he played in this country when he was younger. It is unusual,’ said the 24-year-old.
‘People in Spain know the English league and they talk about him, especially more after last season because he did really good work with Wigan. I think Liverpool wanted him, and he is doing a very good job. If he continues well with Wigan I think he will continue to rise.
‘Wigan have a Spanish style about them, and Swansea were similar last season, where he used to be manager. They have a very good way of playing and are enjoyable to watch.’
With the influence of Jordi Gomez in midfield, there are now reinforcements in other positions from Iberia. Striker Arouna Kone scored 15 times from 34 appearances for Levante last term, whiel defender Ivan Ramis arrives from Mallorca to bolster a struggling backline.
‘Kone is a very good striker, very strong, and he did very well in La Liga last year, scoring a lot of goals,’ Mata said. ‘He is able to do very difficult things on the ball to trouble defences, and is very skilful. Ivan Ramis is a central defender and I think he will work in English football. He is tall, strong and very physical, which suits this country. He is a very good guy as well, I know him well.
‘I think it will be easier for him to adapt as a defender. If you are fast, tall and strong as a defender you can fit in quickly, but as an attacker it is harder to adapt quickly and you have to take time to know the league.’
It is a view that doesn’t lend itself to Mata’s own experiences of Premier League life last season, though the Chelsea Player of the Year is well aware of what we in this country call ‘second season syndrome’, where those who make an immediate impact struggle at the second time of asking.
‘I will try for this not to happen,’ he smiled. ‘I want to improve my game still and the way I play, I would like to score more goals, create more goals and learn to defend better, to become a more complete player and I think I can do that.
‘Now we have more skilful players. Marko Marin, Oscar, Eden Hazard, they all like to play with the ball like me, and I think I will enjoy playing with them. I like to play with passing and movement and I think they will be the same, so I think it could be better for the team to have players like that.
‘I know I will have to work hard to keep my place which will be good for me too. You have to be competitive with your team-mates and training hard for your place, so I will be trying my best in every session.’
After a week of work at Cobham with others away on or recovering from international duty, Mata will be hoping he has done enough to receive the nod from Roberto Di Matteo this afternoon.