Idolising Zinedine Zidane and admiring Ryan Giggs helped influenced Juan Mata's vision for the beautiful game
Juan Mata tells United Uncovered about the players who inspired him...
There are a number of players I really looked up to when I was younger. I really liked two Argentina players, Pablo Aimar and Roberto Pompei, and when I was at Real Madrid I loved watching Zinedine Zidane. He was an amazing player. And then there is Ryan Giggs. He is unbelievable and it is such a pleasure to play alongside him at United.
If you speak to any footballer in the world about Giggsy people will say the same thing – he's an example and a legend, and he has a fantastic left foot. Who has the best left foot? Him, of course! The thing I have noticed most training and playing with him is his commitment. Some players get into their mid-to-late thirties and the only thing they want is to retire and live an easy life. He still has the hunger to break records, make assists, score goals, train every day, give advice to the younger players and be an example to everyone. He has won so many trophies and played more games than anyone at this club, yet he still wants to achieve more.
I remember watching Giggsy play when I was about 11 or 12, and I also had a Giggs shirt. I asked a friend who came over to Old Trafford to buy me a United shirt with Giggs on the back. I've still got it.
Another player with a beautiful left foot was Roberto Pompei. He was a midfielder for Real Oviedo, who I supported as a youngster and still support. He also played for Argentina. I was maybe six or seven when I first started watching him and I always noticed the way he crossed the ball. He had an unbelievable touch and the ability to deliver incredible crosses, corners and free-kicks. He was very, very talented.
I was also lucky enough to train with Zinedine Zidane when I was at Real Madrid's academy as a kid and he is another player I looked up to. He played with so much elegance. I love these kinds of players, the ones who play with style, players who already know what they're going to do with the ball before they get it. He could do anything on the pitch and was always in control of every pass and every move he made. He was just different to everyone else and he made difficult things look easy. That's why he is one of the best players in the history of the game because everything he did was unique.