Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata appeared on the Spanish television programme Salvados on Sunday night and lifted the spoke frankly about the modern game, the business side of football and player salaries, among other things.
The price of tickets: "It costs 40 pounds to watch United play. It’s not cheap"
On people who say ‘I hate the modern 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. It’s not like the football of old; there wasn’t as much press coverage before or as many interested parties looking for their cut".
Agents: "My dad is my agent and always acts with my best interests at heart. I’ve had team-mates who have gotten terrible advice. When I was younger I used to hear parents tell their children when to pass the ball as well as not to even bother passing it. I’ve had to tell team-mates that they were receiving bad advice. Every player thinks he’s Maradona when he joins a big club. That happens to all of us but then you start to notice it in the younger players. You see kids who think they’re rock stars; wearing extravagant clothes and driving fancy cars… and sometimes you have to take them aside and have a word. As long as you can keep a cool head though and continue working as hard as before, which after all is what got you to where you are, than you’ll be able to handle yourself".
Salary: "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".
Living in a bubble: "I live in one. Real life is the one my friends live. They’ve had to look for work, sign on to the dole and emigrate. That’s normal life now. My life as a footballer is not normal".
Football as a business: "I don’t enjoy the business side of football. I love the game. I love training and competing. I’d happily take a pay cut if there was less business involvement in the sport. At this level we’re very well paid and sometimes you get to thinking that there really isn’t much of a difference between x and x+3".
The pressure on young players: "There are times when too much pressure is put on young players, which is wrong. They’re not prepared properly for failure, and things don’t always go to plan. They need to be taught that only a fortunate few can make it to the top. 99.9% of them won’t make it that far".
Footballers have it too easy: "It scares me sometimes to think about just how protected I am. The smallest problem and someone will come and fix it for me. That’s one of the aspects in which we don’t live a normal life".