Respecting the badge — as opposed to blithely kissing whatever crest is on the shirt of the current team for whom you play — is quite rare these days when it comes to footballers who ply their trade at the very top level.
The rewards are huge and it wouldn’t be uncommon for a striker, for example, to celebrate with his fans one day and then quit the club the next when a better offer comes along in the shape of a more lucrative deal.
In some ways, once you have accepted that loyalty rarely plays a part in the leading leagues around Europe, and certainly the Premier League comes into this bracket, then you can continue to appreciate the game at the top level for what it is.
So, when a player such as Juan Mata comes along, and does what he has just done — we should applaud. Not just Manchester United supporters; football fans in general. To stay at the club that he has fallen in love with since his move from Chelsea back in 2014 for £37.1million, Mata has just taken a £45,000-a-week cut in his wages to allow him to pen a new three-year deal at Old Trafford. Yes, you read that right.
Mata will now, arguably, see out his playing career with the Red Devils and, who knows, could well be lining up a coaching role at the Theatre of Dreams. But what is crucial here is that he loves the club so much he has taken a significant reduction in his salary just to be able to contribute whatever he can over the next three years.
There is every reason to believe that the period could be tough, but will certainly be one of transition, with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer trying to get things right on the pitch after a fraught few years since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson. And the United legend and former Norway goal-getter is fully aware of just how much the club means to Spanish attacker Mata. He said:
“He understands what it means to be a Manchester United player and has embraced everything about this great club.”
For once, the national press has been kind to a United player and in a quote doing the rounds, though not attributed, backs up Matt’s devotion to the cause. A source told The Sun:
“Juan loves playing at United and is happy in Manchester. He feared he would need to move because he didn’t want to sign for just 12 months. But his advisors and the club hammered out a deal.”
It seems happiness does have a price. Expect good things from the extension of this love affair between Mata and Manchester United.