Regardless of where your loyalties lie, it's impossible not to have at least a begrudging bit of respect for Juan Mata. In the age of multi-million euro contracts and PR teams that are more protective than a young gorilla swaddling her newly born child, you'd be forgiven for seeing top level footballers as distant beings that have little personality and even less contact with the issues facing fans.
Mata however, has always come across as an extremely affable sort of chap and although you certainly can't paint all footballers with the same brush, he does tend to set himself apart from the crowd with the manner in which he conducts himself in the public.
With that in mind, it's probably little surprise to see the Man United attacker take a refreshingly honest knife to the issue of spiralling wages in football. Mata was speaking to Spanish television programme Salvados this weekend when the question of his wage came up. At this point, you'd usually see a PR individual and cut the interviewer in his/her tracks but Mata was thoroughly up front with his response.
Football is very well remunerated at this level. It’s like we live in a bubble. With respect to the rest of society, we earn a ridiculous amount. It’s unfathomable.
With respect to the world of football, I earn a normal wage. But compared to 99.9% of Spain and the rest of the world, I earn an obscene amount. The barometer we use for measuring our salaries is comparing them to those of our team-mates and what other players are earning elsewhere.
That's not to say that Mata is going to be handing his wage back to those in the corporate boxes at Old Trafford but he did go on to say that he'd happily take a pay cut if it meant cutting at least some of the commercialisation out of the game.
I can understand what they’re talking about. The business side of football makes it seem as though the owners are now more important than the fans.
I don’t enjoy the business side of football. I love the game. I love training and competing. I’d take a pay cut if there was less business involvement in the sport. At this level, we’re very well paid and sometimes you start thinking there isn’t much of a difference between x and x+3.
The reality of the situation is that that's not going to happen anytime soon so Mata will just have to be happy with the excess cash. And while we may say that somewhat facetiously, all that extra money does bring some significant drawbacks when it comes to the culture of a dressing room. The problem for Mata? The young chaps who think they're God's gift to football because they're earning more money then they really should be.
Every player thinks he’s Diego Maradona when he joins a big club. That happens to all of us but then you notice it in the younger players. You see kids who think they’re rock stars; wearing extravagant clothes and driving flash cars … sometimes you have to take them aside and have a word.
Of course, none of that does a whole lot to address the fact that fans are being taken for a ride to help fund it all, but it's at least a refreshing change of pace to see Mata acknowledge it's happening.