Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho is damaging Juan Mata's career by leaving him out of the Blues first team, according to former Valencia and Spain midfielder Gazika Mendieta.
Mata has made 12 appearances under Mourinho this season but has been omitted from the start in the games against title rivals Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City.
The 25 year old crowned his latest Chelsea start with his first goal of the season against Arsenal in the League amid an impressive performance at the Emirates Stadium.
The former Valencia playmaker was Chelsea's player of the year in each of the past two seasons but has played a peripheral role this term after Mourinho signed Andre Schurrle and Willian while finding a more permanent role for Kevin de Bruyne.
And Mendieta has criticised Mourinho's handling of Mata this season and says he is damaging the player's career by leaving him out on regular occasions.
"The Mata situation is quite surprising," he told talkSPORT.
"With his performances and the style of football he plays, you would have thought Mourinho would play him more. He has Oscar and Hazard in a similar situation so he can't find a place for him there.
"The national team and his club to have a player of his ability on the bench of his standard, of his quality to be on the bench is a waste."
Chelsea made 11 changes from the win over Manchester City for the trip to Arsenal but ran out comfortable winners in north London, with Cesar Azpilicueta handing the visitors a half-time lead before Mata's brilliant second.
On his infrequent appearances for Chelsea of late, Mata said: "I just try to play, and enjoy my football.
"The manager is the one who makes the decisions, but I always try my best for this club and that's what I'll always do. Today I enjoyed it, and I felt proud for the fans, but I'm really happy for Cesar."
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