Juan Mata's Perfect XI: "Lampard was one of the best players in the history of English football"

Juan Mata's Perfect XI
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Juan Mata has won just about everything there is to win: he's got a World Cup, Champions League, Premier League, World Club Cup, Europa League, FA Cup, Copa del Rey and EFL Cup winners' medals. So it's no surprise that a list of his team-mates past and present makes for impressive reading.

FourFourTwo sat down with him to find out who would make the best XI of his team-mates...

James Milner's Perfect XI first appeared in the February 2020 issue of FourFourTwo magazine. Subscribe today and get 13 issues a year delivered straight to your door (opens in new tab).

Juan Mata's Perfect XI

(Image credit: Future)

Juan Mata's Perfect XI – Goalkeeper: David De Gea

“David is a very good friend, and also the most talented goalkeeper that I’ve ever played with – his reactions are amazing. Every goalkeeping coach will tell you his natural ability is unbelievable.”

Right-back: Branislav Ivanovic

“At Chelsea, he could play at right-back or centre-back and be excellent in either position. He was strong, very difficult to beat one-on-one – and even effective at the other end of the pitch, too.”

Centre-back: Rio Ferdinand

“He had the next locker to me at United and was a great help when I first arrived. Rio was a leader, and his positioning on the pitch was always right. He was very comfortable with the ball at his feet and good in the air as well.”

Centre-back: John Terry

“A top header of the ball and a leader for Chelsea. I’d always look for him with my free-kicks and he’d be there – I gave him a lot of assists! He could turn an average cross into a good one...”

Left-back: Patrice Evra

“He’d been at Old Trafford for eight years before I signed, so he was experienced. He was a key figure in the dressing room, and could defend and attack really well. A great character to have around.”

Centre-midfield: Frank Lampard

“Simply, one of the best players in the history of English football. Frank scored so many goals for a midfielder. He could switch the play, pick a pass and also arrive in the penalty area at the right time to find the net. His goalscoring was his best attribute – how many midfielders have that? Oh, and he could take penalties brilliantly, too.”

Centre-midfield: Michael Carrick

“An unsung hero who always played the ball at the right moments and the right times. He made his team-mates better, he controlled matches and, such was his understanding of football, helped games to flow. Michael made the right decision almost every time.”

Centre-midfield: Ryan Giggs

“We weren’t team-mates for long, but it was a dream to play with him. Ryan was already a big star when I was a kid and I looked up to him as a left-footed player – he was gifted. He broke all of United’s appearance records, could run so quick and assisted many goals.” 

Forward: Wayne Rooney

“Another of English football’s greats. He could do everything on the pitch – even play as a midfielder – so he has to be in this XI. He broke the goalscoring record for both United and England, and it was a privilege to play with him.”

Centre-forward: Didier Drogba

“We’ve shared some fantastic memories together, especially that night in Munich when Didier scored the winning penalty in the 2012 Champions League Final. He could create goals for himself, taking the ball in the middle of the pitch and driving forward, and was so powerful in the air.”

Forward: David Villa

“I played with him for three seasons at Valencia early in our careers, as well as for Spain. A superb finisher with both feet, and intelligent in his movement when positioning himself in the box to score with one or two touches. He wasn’t that tall or fast, but he became a world-class forward by being smart.”

Manager: Ronald Koeman

“This might surprise a few people, but I owe so much to him. When I was 19, I was having a difficult moment at Valencia and not playing very much. He saw me in training once, took me aside and said: ‘I think you can play, so keep doing what you’re doing. Play with confidence – I’ve got faith in you and want you to express yourself.’ Koeman was the first manager to trust me in professional football, even though there were other more experienced players in my position, like Vicente.”

Juan Mata’s book, ‘Suddenly A Footballer’, is out now (opens in new tab)

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Andy Mitten
Editor at Large

Andy Mitten is Editor at Large of FourFourTwo, interviewing the likes of Lionel Messi, Eric Cantona, Sir Alex Ferguson and Diego Maradona for the magazine. He also founded and is editor of United We Stand, the Manchester United fanzine, and contributes to a number of publications, including GQ, the BBC and The Athletic.