Juan Mata has taken the unusual step of writing an open letter to Chelsea fans following his £37.1 million move to rivals Manchester United.

In the letter, published on his official website, Mata opens his heart to the Chelsea fans who so adored him during his time at Stamford Bridge, explaining why he felt it necessary to leave the club – and for a direct rival no less.

In an era where players are often roundly abused by supporters who once idolised them, Mata’s lovely gesture is a reminder that a bond can exist between players and fans even after their time at a club has come to an end.

Mata was always incredibly highly regarded by Chelsea fans and it is likely that with his emotional missive, he will have ensured he always retains a place in the affections of Blues supporters.

“As you can imagine this is a very important day in my life, and with these lines I would like to express the memories and emotions that come to me as I write,” Mata explained.

“This letter is written from my heart, and first of all I would like to say that I will never forget all the affection given to me by the Chelsea fans. From the very first day until the last. With your support and affection I have grown up as a player and I have had an amazing time both on and off the pitch. I will always feel the gratitude towards you. Always. No words are enough to give back all the things I have received.

“There has been plenty of good moments: the FA Cup, my first trophy as a Blue; the immense happiness of winning titles for the first time in the club’s history, such as that magical Champions League night in Munich and the Europa League. Thank you so much for the way you have treated me, you have been unbelievable. I hope you understand that after going through a complicated and, for me, new situation in the last few months, I believe this is the best choice in order to carry on with my football career and to keep enjoying this sport.”

The “complicated situation” Mata refers to is Jose Mourinho no longer regarding him as a first-choice pick despite being named the club’s Player of the Year for two consecutive seasons. However, the Spaniard resisted the temptation to have a pop at his former manager, and instead in his thoroughly classy letter wanted to pay tribute to employees at all levels at Stamford Bridge.

“I thank all my former team mates for these two and a half years and I wish them the best, personally and professionally, for the future,” he wrote. “Of course I have been closer to some of them, but the most important thing is that my years in Chelsea have left me with great friends. Friends forever, football rivalries aside.

Juan Mata

Juan Mata

“I also want to highlight the day-to-day job of every member of the Chelsea staff: medical team, kit men, staff at Cobham and Stamford Bridge, media and marketing department, Chelsea TV team… All of them are very important in making this club a great one. Thank you for your treatment and your efforts to make the life of the players easier.

“Furthermore, thanks to every manager I have had the pleasure to work with during my time here. They have all been a big help for my progression as a player. I have always respected their decisions, whatever they were; they made me more mature and a stronger person. You learn from everything, and certain situations make you think about other team mates who are coping with similar situations more regularly.”

And Mata finished his letter to Chelsea supporters in emotional fashion. “I will never forget my time in Chelsea and the affection I take with me, I will keep forever. I wish you the best. A big hug to all of you. THANK YOU so much, Juan.”

– By Eurosport.

In December 2011, I scooped football news that made me think real deep. I wrote a piece about those football news in January 2012 titled: HENRY, JUAN AND JOSE: MY 2011 INSPIRATIONAL MODELS. Here’s an excerpt from that piece:

‘‘Chelsea forward Juan Mata insisted he would not celebrate ‘out of respect for a club and supporters that always treated me well’ if he scored against his former club – Valencia, during a UEFA Champions League game. He was given a hero’s welcome at the airport on arriving Spain.’’

-September 28, 2011

Juan has taught me – first when he left Valencia to Chelsea in 2011, and recently when he left Chelsea to Manchester United last week – that in life, relationships come to an end.

That to enter the next season, I must learn to exit properly.

That I should never slam the door when I leave, but close it. Gently. In love.  For I may need to walk back through it someday. I may.

That I should close the door with grace.

That I should close the door, but keep open a window.

That I shouldn’t throw a party when ill and misfortune tumbles into the tent of former friends and colleagues.

That I shouldn’t rejoice at their calamity.

That I shouldn’t disparage them when adversity tumbles into their house.

That I shouldn’t broadcast their misfortune on CNN, ‘‘Nice, so nice. That serves him/her right.’’

That I should always remember the nice and good things they did to and for me, even if I could only remember just one.

That I should major on the positives, and minor on the negatives.

That there is no permanent lead in life. So I should stay cool.

That God can turn the epilogue of a tragedy into the prologue of a comedy.

That God can change times and seasons.

That a player who was benched in his former club can be paid twice his former salary in his new club; and can be given a major role, enough playing time and first team shirt in his new club.

Thank you, Juan Mata, for teaching me – and us? – these important lessons in life.

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