Jose Mourinho addressed the media ahead of Sunday’s FA Cup fourth round match against Stoke City and provided an injury update on Fernando Torres, but the press conference was dominated by talk of Juan Mata’s imminent departure to Manchester United.
Mourinho also spoke about Mohamed Salah, after the Blues agreed a deal with Basel yesterday to acquire the services of the Egyptian, as well as looking ahead to the visit of Mark Hughes’s side this weekend.
Mata’s future was the first subject raised, and the Chelsea manager provided an update.
‘We allowed Juan to travel and to have the medical with United,’ said Mourinho. ‘Sooner rather than later things will be finalised. This club is a special club and this club cares about people. This club is very respectful of the players and especially players who brought history to the club. Juan is one of these.
‘I still think he could be important for us, he’s a fantastic player. In spite of not playing for us, especially in the last period, he could be important for us, but Juan has a fantastic opportunity; another big club wants him, in a country where he loves to be and he loves to play.
‘The offer is the right offer for us, so in spite of the fact many clubs, many boards and many managers thinking you shouldn’t sell to a rival, especially one in the same country, we feel different.
‘The player deserves respect and deserves to be happy and play where he wants to play. Because the offer is what we consider the right offer for the quality of the player we allowed him to negotiate with them and we didn’t close the door.
‘It’s a good offer, respectful to us and the value of the player. It allows us to try to add another player, because we need another player, and still have a fantastic profit. With the two deals, Juan and Kevin De Bruyne, we put ourselves in a fantastic position with Financial Fair Play.’
Mourinho acknowledged it was with much sadness the decision was taken to let Mata leave.
‘I asked him when the offer came if he was happy to go and he said yes,’ said the Blues boss. ‘After that we felt mixed emotions, we are happy that he’s going to a fantastic situation but at the same time we are sad. With him it was the same, very happy to go from Chelsea to Man United, staying in England and the Premier League, probably with guarantees he will play. It’s good for Juan, the Premier League and the offer, in financial terms, is the right offer.
‘He tried to give everything, it was just a point of the team doing very well for the last couple of months and winning matches consecutively. Willian, Hazard and Oscar are playing really well and he wasn’t playing.
‘In matches where he could have been decisive coming off the bench, when he was about to come on we scored goals. I was playing him at Derby and we scored. I was going to bring him on against Hull at the beginning of the second half and we scored. Against Man United we were 3-0 up, so I couldn’t even bring him from the bench and make him feel great by changing the game. In the last four or five matches he wasn’t even playing so he was clearly affected, frustrated, disappointed.
‘I worked with him for four, five six months but he’s been at the club for more than two years, so people know him much better than I do. What I know is enough to know he deserves this, if he cannot be fully happy here because he’s not playing 100 per cent like in the last two years, if he has a big club that wants him, even if it’s a rival club and in England, the club decided, and I was completely on the club’s side, you cannot stop people from being happy if the offer is the right offer.’
Mata’s impending departure paves the way for a new arrival in the attacking midfield positions, and yesterday the club announced a deal has been agreed with Basel for the transfer of Mohamed Salah, subject to a medical and personal terms being agreed.
‘It was a surprise for us that Juan was leaving, we were not prepared to make bids and try to bring a player to replace him in the squad, everything happened very fast,’ said Mourinho. ‘We had to work on that and see what options could be good for us.
‘When we finally decided to go for Salah we had to start from zero because we had no contact with the club or the player, we didn’t even know who the player’s agent is. The first step was an agreement with the club, as we made official. Everything is done subject to the medical and the player’s desire to join us. Now we know he’s happy the two clubs have an agreement.
‘He cannot come to England for his medical so we have to travel to meet him, probably in Switzerland, and only after that we can get the paperwork to bring him to the country.
‘I like the fact that he can play the same way as our attacking players do, which is with adaptability to play right, left or behind the striker. He’s young, like our players in that area are, he’s fast, creative and enthusiastic.
‘When we analysed him he looks like the type of player who is humble on the pitch and we believe if he comes he will have a similar process to the one Willian had.’
With little over a week remaining until the transfer window closes, there could still be time for more movement. The future of Michael Essien has been speculated upon, and Mourinho explained the situation.
‘Michael Essien is at this moment in a position where he could go or stay,’ said Mourinho. ‘If he stays we are more than happy as he’s a fantastic club man and team player, but he’s another one who’s given everything for the club and if a great situation arrives for his future, related to competition, going to the World Cup and playing at a high level for another few years, he’s another one that we feel we must show respect to.
‘To show him respect is to not stop him going, but if he stays he’s playing against Stoke at the weekend.’
With so much focus on incomings and outgoings, it was easy to forget Sunday’s game against Stoke City, in which the Blues will be looking to progress to the fifth round of the FA Cup and win for the seventh game in succession in all competitions.
‘We lost against them and it wasn’t a long time ago,’ Mourinho said. ‘They are a difficult team; very physical, very direct, strong at set pieces and they will come to compete.
‘I expect a difficult match, I will play with a strong team and not make big changes because we want to go as far as possible in the competition.’
Torres is unavailable for Sunday’s game after picking up an injury in last week’s win against Manchester United.
‘It’s not a surgery situation, thankfully, but also it’s not just a little strain, it’s a lateral ligament injury and it will take this week, and I would say another three weeks.’