A man I know was once on a Zoom call with Juan Mata. The man wasn’t expecting Juan Mata to be on the call so he set him as his background picture. This man was highly embarrassed. This man was me.
It speaks to the humility of Juan Mata that he did not bat an eyelid at this level of idiocy. Instead, he went about his day with the grace and composure of the gentleman that he is.
This outlook on life lead him to pioneer the Common Goal movement in 2017, which sees professional footballers donate 1% of their salaries to football-based initiatives around the globe.
Since 2017, players like Giorgio Chiellini, Shinji Kagawa, and Mata himself have raised over €3 million in funds for football for good campaigns.
The Berlin-based initiative was co-founded by Jürgen Griesbeck, the founder of parent organisation streetfootballworld.
In a startling juxtaposition with the excesses of modern football, Common Goal was launched on the same day that Neymar was transferred to PSG for over €200 million.
On its inception in 2017, Mata spoke to The Guardian about the principles of the movement, which carry through to the current day.
“It’s a very simple idea but some of the best ideas are simple ones and, when it comes to football, the power of the game is incredible. Anyone who understands football will know why we are so hopeful and ambitious with Common Goal,” he said.
From 37 players in 2017, Common Goal now boasts the membership of 165 professionals from around the globe, including Timo Werner, Megan Rapinoe, and Serge Gnabry.
The organisation does not consist solely of players, also including donations from managers including Bayern Munich’s Julian Nagelsmann, and corporate sponsors like OTT broadcasters DAZN.
Through the growth of Common Goal, Mata has shown the power of football as a tool for social good. The understated Spaniard was awarded the Guardian Footballer of the Year award in 2017 for his contribution to the movement.
While his on-field endeavours may have slowed down in recent years for Manchester United, the 33-year-old has shown a desire to enter management after his playing career.
Former teammate Ander Herrera has also expressed interest in forming a coaching ticket with the diminutive attacker. “As for the tandem with Mata we have talked about this a long time,” Herrera told Marca. “I think we understand football in a similar way, but maybe I’m a little more intense than him, a little more passionate at times.
“Maybe we could form that tandem and he would give me that calm that at times maybe I’m very impulsive.”
Regardless of his managerial acumen, the World Cup and Champions League winner will always have a place in the hearts of the global footballing community.