Is Chelsea boss Mourinho giving Mata the Soprano treatment?

Jose Mourinho's treatment of Chelsea golden boy Juan Mata bears similarities to a classic Tony Soprano scene, says Kieran Beckles

Jose Mourinho’s treatment of Chelsea midfielder Juan Mata has been one of the biggest talking points of the Premier League season so far.

The Blues boss has inexplicably left Mata benched or out of the squad for three of their five top-flight outings, despite the Spaniard being Chelsea’s back-to-back player of the year since arriving from Valencia.

Mourinho claims the 25-year-old has failed to adhere to his desired style of play, while hailing the in-form Oscar as his preferred No10 despite Mata’s greater experience and far more consistent performances since 2011.

The 50-year-old has his own blueprint on man management which has produced great results during spells at Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan – and to a lesser extent at Real Madrid.

But has Mourinho taken a leaf out of Tony Soprano’s leadership manual with his latest move?

The fictional Mafia boss had a controversial style of dealing with his adversaries, contemporaries and subordinates throughout six seasons of the hit American television show, The Sopranos.

One of the best examples of the New Jersey mobster asserting his authority and manipulating a situation to his advantage came in episode five of season six.

Fresh from a life-saving operation after being shot, Tony was desperate to re-establish his authority and quash any perceived weakness. So, when the chance arose to underline his role as the undisputed boss, he took it.

Tony baited his muscle-bound bodyguard Perry Annunziata into a fight as the rest of the crew watched their boss hand a young man at the peak of his fitness a vicious beating. He had made his point in emphatic manner.

The classic Sopranos scene brings to mind similarities to the current drama taking place at Stamford Bridge – Mourinho dropping Chelsea’s best player over the past two seasons defies logic.

The Blues legend sealed a long-awaited return to west London in June after winning three trophies in three seasons at Real Madrid. On paper, his reign was a success.

However, the 50-year-old failed to really knock Barcelona off their perch, while taking on long-standing squad members and the club’s hierarchy. In short, he left the Bernabeu under a dark cloud.

During his first reign, Mourinho was the undisputed driving force behind the west London club as he used his people skills to manage big characters such as Didier Drogba and John Terry, and countless other global stars.

But he returned this summer with questions marks lingering over his style of management after a fractious spell in the Spanish capital.

He was taking over a dressing room that was vastly different to the one he faced in 2004, with Petr Cech, Frank Lampard and Terry now larger than life figures at the club.

Among the ranks was Chelsea’s golden boy Mata. The Spaniard was the heir elect to the likes of Lampard and Terry, having regularly received the adoration for his ability to create goals and net spectacular strikes of his own.

But, to the surprise of most of English football, the former Valencia man has barely featured since Mourinho took charge, and the Blues boss has even delivered a public critique of the midfielder’s inability to adapt to his tactics.

The situation struck of Tony Soprano taking on ‘Muscles Marinara’. Mourinho leaving out the club’s best player to prove he’s number one at Stamford Bridge. But does this tactic work?

At Madrid, the biggest talking point of his final season was the continued omission of Madrid and Spain captain Iker Casillas amid rumblings of the goalkeeper leading a dressing room mutiny.

Despite insisting his reasons were purely football related, it certainly appeared Mourinho was leaving out Madrid’s long-term skipper to assert his authority.

The 31-year-old is a Madrid institution and while Mourinho persisted with second-choice Diego Lopez, the Special One’s decision was met with plenty of hostility.

Such was the shock at Casillas’ fall from grace under the Portuguese boss, Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez jumped to the defence of his compatriot, while the likes of Pepe and Sergio Ramos rallied around their skipper.

In the end, Mourinho quit the Spanish capital and returned to his Stamford Bridge sanctuary.

His successor Carlo Ancelotti has persisted with Lopez and plans to use Casillas for the club’s Champions League matches, vindicating the Chelsea manager’s stance. But did the Special One lack the fight to battle on at the political cauldron which is Madrid?

Manchester United legend Sir Alex Ferguson is a shining example of someone who has been unafraid to take on his club’s most powerful players and show them the Old Trafford exit door.

Paul Ince, David Beckham and Roy Keane – all strong characters in their own right – were swiftly disposed of when the Red Devils Godfather decided the trio had run their course at the Theatre of Dreams.

Tony Soprano was always a canny operator, and surely even Mourinho knows that ushering Mata towards the Stamford Bridge exit door in January would put a strain on his relations with the Chelsea supporters. A risk if the current run of mixed results continue.

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