Valencia winger Juan Mata has expressed his disappointment that Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs will miss Wednesday's Champions League clash at the Mestalla, after idolising the Welsh wizard as an teenager.
Giggs misses the trip to Valencia after being ruled out for two weeks with a hamstring injury sustained against Bolton last weekend, leaving 22-year-old Mata gutted at missing out on a chance to play against his boyhood hero.
Genuine wingers are few and far between in the higher echelons of world football today, just as they were when Mata was growing up in the youth teams of Real Madrid.
But it was Giggs' performances in the Champions League against Valencia nine years ago that opened the eyes of a 13-year-old Mata, who admits to modelling himself on the Welshman's style of play.
"That year , I saw many games in the Champions League when Hector Cuper’s Valencia reached the final in Milan, and I remember talking a lot with my friends in class about Giggs," Mata revealed to Spanish newspaper AS.
"I remember him being left-footed like me and I paid special attention to his movement.
"It’s a pity Giggs is not playing, because I would have liked to swap shirts with him."
Giggs is joined on the sidelines by out-of-sorts United striker Wayne Rooney but Mata remains wary of the threat Sir Alex Ferguson's side poses to his team, who are currently sat on top of La Liga.
"They have a certain [Dimitar] Berbatov, [Javier Hernandez] Chicharito, Nani and [Paul] Scholes, who is another hero from my childhood," he added.
"It’s going to be beautiful game, the kind that forces you to be better player. You dream of playing in such games as a child.
"But there is no point winning against Manchester United if we don’t pick up more points in the remainder of the competition – just like there’s no point beating Barcelona or Real Madrid if you don’t do well in Malaga, Alicante and Gijon."
By James Martini