Could Juan Mata be the “panic buy” that Manchester United promised not to make? It just might happen this week.
United is considering making a club-record transfer bid for Chelsea’s Mata with hopes of signing him during the January transfer window, The Telegraph reports.
“A deal, which would break United’s transfer record, has been discussed with intermediaries,” the report says. “United would have to offer around £37 million [$60.8 million] for the 25-year-old Spanish international in the hope of pushing a deal through.
“It is believed, however, that should United make a bid of around £37 million for Mata, it could persuade Chelsea to sell especially if they also give [Chelsea manager Jose] Mourinho plenty of time to bring in a replacement before the window closes on Jan 31. That means an offer would have to be made in the next few days.”
Mata’s status at Chelsea has plummeted since Mourinho arrived at Stamford Bridge last summer. Mata was Chelsea’s Player of the Season for two straight seasons (2011-12 and 2012-13), but Mourinho’s preference for Eden Hazard, Willian and Oscar has reduced his role from attacker-in-chief to outcast. It has been reported that Mourinho believes Mata’s qualities are incompatible with the style of play he wants to instill at Chelsea. Last week, Mourinho told reporters that Mata would not leave the club in January, but United could change his stance with an eye-popping transfer bid.
United has struggled under first-year manager David Moyes in 2013-14. Sunday’s loss to Chelsea effectively ended the Red Devils’ hopes of retaining their Premier League title, and it has become apparent that United’s squad needs rejuvenation.
Moyes controls United’s transfer strategy, and he has significant funds — reportedly around £80 million ($131 million) — at his disposal. Moyes hasn’t made any signings in the current transfer window, as he reportedly had little interest in making a “panic buy” to ease United’s woes.
It’s inevitable that pundits and fans will view Mata’s potential move to United in such a light, and that view is neither entirely true nor entirely false. Mata is hoping to earn a spot on Spain’s squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but his role as a Chelsea squad player (as opposed to automatic starter) significantly reduces the likelihood Spain selecting him this summer. If Mata agitates for a move, it would suggest a high level of panic on his part. Meanwhile, Mata’s reported fee would break United’s transfer record, surpassing the £30.7 million ($50.5 million) it spent on Dimitar Berbatov in 2008. The price would also aptly reflect the progression Mata has made since moving to English soccer in the summer of 2011. Chelsea signed him from Spanish club Valencia for £23.5 million ($38.6 million) in August of that year. The Blues could make a £13.5 million profit ($22.2 million) by selling him to United in January, and that doesn’t even take Mata’s goals and the trophies he helped Chelsea win into account.