Manchester United has shown its interest in Juan Mata to be genuine by making a record transfer bid for the Chelsea star-turned-outcast.
United made a transfer bid to Chelsea for Mata on Wednesday. The bid is worth between £35-£40 million ($58-66 million), according to British media reports. The fee would eclipse the £30.7 million ($50.5 million) that United spent on Dimitar Berbatov in 2008, setting a new club record for the most expensive transfer expenditure. If completed, it could be world soccer’s most significant transfer of the current window.
Mata did not practice with Chelsea on Wednesday, and it is believed that the deal is days away from completion. Spanish club Atletico Madrid also hopes to sign Mata, but United looks to be the favorite, having made the first move.
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Last week, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said he would not allow Mata, 25, to leave during the January transfer window, but his stance might have changed in recent days. Chelsea and United have reached a provisional (informal) agreement on a sale price, but Mata must personally tell Mourinho that he wants to leave Stamford Bridge for Old Trafford, according to the Guardian.
Mata was part of Spain’s title-winning teams at the 2010 FIFA World Cup and the 2012 European Championships, but his place on the national-team squad is being threatened because of his lack of playing time under Mourinho. Mata is thought to be eager to play regular games for a top club ahead of the 2014 World Cup this summer in Brazil.
That face-to-face requirement is a shrewd political move on Mourinho’s part, as Mata is a fan favorite in West London. The Spanish playmaker was Chelsea’s player of the year in 2011-12 and 2012-13. His attacking exploits helped the Blues win the FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League in 2012 as well as the UEFA Europa League in 2013. Having bought Mata from Spanish club Valencia for £23.5 million ($38.6 million) in 2011, Chelsea stands to make a profit of around £13.5 million ($22.2 million) by selling him to United. That figure, combined with Mata’s explicit desire to leave, would protect Mourinho from criticism and ease the pain in the hearts of Chelsea fans — at least initially. It would also give Mourinho funds with which he could strengthen Chelsea, which is in the midst of its own league title chase.
United has struggled under first-year manager David Moyes. The defending Premier League champions trail league leader Arsenal by 14 points with just 16 games left to play. Moyes told United Review that he will shun short-term fixes and only buy players who will help the team over the long term, according to Sky Sports.
“I fully understand that supporters are keen to see us freshen up the squad with new faces, but January is a difficult month in which to bring people in,” Moyes said. “While we are actively scouting players all the time, a lot of the work we are doing now is preparation for the summer. If we can do any business now, then we will certainly try to do it, but I will not compromise the standards required for a player that can come into this club and help improve it.”
The Mata transfer could spark a January spending spree of mammoth proportions. Bayern Munich defender Dante, Atletico Madrid fullback Felipe Luis, Newcastle midfielder Yohan Cabaye and Borussia Monchengladbach winger Patrick Herrmann have all been linked with United in the last 48 hours, according to the Mirror. The total transfer outlay on Mata and the four others could total more than £70 million ($116 million).