FORMER Chelsea manager Avram Grant insists owner Roman Abramovich has never interfered with team selection, but admits he too is mystified by the continued exclusion of midfielder Juan Mata.
Blues boss Jose Mourinho did not even name Mata on the bench for Saturday’s 2-0 win over Fulham. The Spaniard was Chelsea’s outstanding player last term but has been left out in favour of Brazilian Oscar since the Portuguese’s return to Stamford Bridge.
“This is a story that isn’t true,” Grant, who took over from Mourinho in 2007, said when asked if Abramovich ever sought to influence selection.
“Abramovich has spent a lot of money at Chelsea and so has the right to say his opinion. But at the end of the day the manager made the decisions and he never said do this or that.
“When we spoke about football he’d say what his opinion is. So did the chief executive. But it was the manager’s decision and he would support that decision.”
Mourinho explained following Saturday’s scrappy win that Mata would have to accept playing in a wide role with greater defensive responsibility as Oscar was his preferred choice of No10.
Grant is among those who does not understand that decision but has backed Mourinho to find a winning formula, having ended a four-match run without a victory.
“I personally don’t understand,” the Israeli added. “But in this position Chelsea have so many players, so if Oscar, Eden Hazard, or Willian are out people will ask why they are out of the squad or team.
“Mata was one of the best players in the midfield in the last year. A manager needs to take a decision and in this case it’s a tough decision. Jose will know how to manage them well.”
Former Valencia star Mata is set to start tomorrow when Chelsea visit League One Swindon in a Capital One Cup third round tie.
The 25-year-old has been Chelsea player of the year for both of his seasons in west London and also made players’ union the PFA’s team of the season last term.