Juan Mata has regularly proven himself to be one of the most thoughtful men in football. To the Spaniard, the sport is more than just a game.
The Man Utd midfielder was yesterday named The Guardian's Footballer of the Year for 2017. The award was not given for his performances on the pitch. Rather it was what he did off it.
Mata is part of the Common Goal initiative which sees those employed by the football world donate one percent of their salary to charity. The 29-year-old wants to use the privileged position held by him and others to help the disadvantaged.
Speaking the Donald McRae for The Guardian about Chelsea's 2012 Champions League win, Mata related the type of thinking which sets him apart as a footballer.
Chelsea won that season's tournament on penalties against Bayern Munich. After going a goal down late in the game, Mata swung in the cross for Didier Drogba's late equaliser.
He believes the scenes which followed were about more than just winning a trophy.
As we were celebrating, I looked around at my team-mates and saw the beauty of football. A keeper from the Czech Republic. A defender from Serbia and another from Brazil. Midfielders from Ghana, Nigeria, Portugal, Spain and England. And, of course, one incredible striker from Côte d’Ivoire.
We came from all over the world, from different circumstances and spoke many different languages. Some had grown up during wartime. Some had grown up in poverty. But there we were, all standing together in Germany as champions of Europe. The way we had come together from all around the world to work for a common goal was more meaningful to me than the trophy. To me, that is something that can change the world for the better.
Picture credit: Shutterstock