Skip to content

Fit, value, circumstance: Initial reaction to Mata’s potential $65 million United move

Jan 21, 2014, 8:19 PM EDT

Chelsea's Juan Mata reacts during their game against Swindon Town in their English League Cup soccer match at the County Ground in Swindon Reuters

That Chelsea would even consider selling Juan Mata to Manchester United speaks of the depths to which the Red Devils have fallen, but since we’re completely embracing the extremes of this post-Alex Ferguson climate, we might want to consider the scenario that’s emerged Tuesday evening. That possibility has Mata, out of favor at Stamford Bridge ever since José Mourinho’s began picking favorites, moving to Manchester for $65.8 million (£40 million).

Setting aside the story’s veracity (it is a soccer rumor, after all) and that eye-bulging price, Mata would be an ideal fit for a United team that’s lacked creativity all season. With the absence of Wayne Rooney forcing 18-year-old Adnan Januzaj in from the wing to play behind Danny Welbeck, the club’s lack of playmaking options has been exposed. While some would say Shinji Kagawa‘s a logical solution, David Moyes‘ inability to craft a role for the talented Japanese international underscores the need for Mata. For as baffling as Mata’s exclusion as been in Stamford Bridge, Kagawa’s has been equally puzzling in Stretford.

When Rooney and van Persie return, Mata can play behind each, though the Spaniard’s defensive liabilities mean Rooney would have to pick up the slack. But given the lack of creativity in United’s team, that’s a tactical risk Moyes and Ed Woodward should accept. While Mata’s acquisition might require more imagination in how the Red Devils set up their team, the potential rewards shouldn’t be ignored.

If United is able to pull off the move, it would be adding one of the most productive players over the Premier League’s last two seasons. During that time, Mata recorded 18 goals and 30 assists in league play. Expand the scope to all competitions, and the Spanish international’s scored 32 times while setting up 55 others between August 2011 and May 2013.

This year, however, Mata’s been lost. Mourinho’s offseason arrival cost him his starting spot, with the 17 appearances he has made producing only one goal and three assists. Also linked with Paris Saint-Germain, Mata’s been a constant fixture on this month’s rumor mill, and with his team, having put a concrete price on one of their most talented players, speculation about Mata’s Chelsea future is bound to increase.

There are two big questions about the potential move. The first is whether the possibility even makes sense, but given the outlet (The Guardian), two trusted reporters in the byline, and the level of specifics in the report, this looks like one of the more solid transfer reports. Short of a direct quote from one the deal’s principals, there’s little more you could ask from a transfer rumor.

The destination makes sense, too. For the last decade, it would have been difficult to imagine Chelsea and United swamping such a high-profile talent. United’s swoon to seventh place, however, puts the prospect in a different light. Instead of helping a fellow title contender, Chelsea would be casting Mata into the battle for fourth. With the Blues done with United for the season, there’s no chance Mata could hurt Chelsea’s title hopes.

source: Reuters

Struggling in their first season under David Moyes (pictured) Manchester United have fallen from first to seventh in the Premier League. Only the league’s top four finishers qualify for UEFA Champions League. (Photo: Reuters.)

The money, however, is the second big question. Should United pay a club record $65.8 million for Mata? As far as on-field effects, few players are probably worth that money, but the players who can change games come at a premium. Although he hasn’t changed a game in a few months, Mata still carries that reputation. Particularly if PSG are still interested, Chelsea can justify setting an outrageous price.

From United’s point of view, this could be spun as a somewhat cost-conscious move. If the difference between seven and four (perhaps no Europe and Champions League) is acquiring somebody like Mata, the transfer fee could be justified. Going out in the Round of 16 last year, Manchester United made $46.8 million in Champions League revenue. If obtaining Mata also decreases the likelihood of a sell off that would preclude qualifying beyond 2013-14, the 25-year-old’s cost could be seen as a means to secure a financial end.

But that reasoning further underscores how much has changed in eight months. In May, Mata was an indispensable player for Chelsea. Now, his best use might be generating more room between Chelsea’s spending and the Financial Fair Play margins. And for Manchester United, they’ve gone from running away with the Premier League to pursuing players who can salvage their Champions League hopes. Unfortunately, those players are extremely expensive, with their scarcity meaning the Red Devils may have to line a rivals’ pockets.

Latest Posts
  1. MLS playoff update: How does postseason picture look right now?

    Oct 31, 2014, 12:13 AM EDT

    mauro-diaz-10-of-fc-dallas Getty Images

    After FC Dallas and the New York Red Bulls defeated their opponents in the first two games of the MLS playoffs, the postseason picture exists in its beginning stages.

  2. Robbie Keane, regardless of playoffs, will play in US-Ireland match overseas

    Oct 30, 2014, 11:37 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Galaxy  v Chivas USA Getty Images

    Robbie Keane stands ready to play for his international side right after the LA Galaxy’s playoff contests vs. Real Salt Lake.

  3. WATCH: Men in Blazers preview Round 10

    Oct 30, 2014, 9:38 PM EDT

    Can United bounce back from 'that' defeat at Leicester? Getty Images

    Men in Blazers preview Round 10, most notably the Manchester derby.

  4. Fernando Torres on time at Chelsea: ‘I needed to feel important’

    Oct 30, 2014, 8:36 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C3-CHELSEA-STEAUA BUCHAREST

    Fernando Torres, expanding on his decision to leave Chelsea on loan, says he wanted to “feel important.”

  5. Sam Allardyce delighted Newcastle hasn’t axed Pardew

    Oct 30, 2014, 7:21 PM EDT

    Alan+Pardew+Sam+Allardyce+VFGweDnwiSUm Getty Images

    West Ham boss Sam Allardyce is happy for the recent triumphs of criticized Newcastle manager Alan Pardew.

  6. Wayne Rooney cleared to play in Manchester derby

    Oct 30, 2014, 6:35 PM EDT

    Will United surge towards the top four with 14 games to go? AP

    Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney will be available in the upcoming Manchester derby following his three-match suspension.

  7. Celtic midfielder Aleksandar Tonev faces seven-game ban over racism

    Oct 30, 2014, 5:56 PM EDT

    Aleksandar-Tonev-529522 Getty Images

    Action taken against alleged racist actions in the Scottish Premiership.

  8. Daniel Sturridge links injury problems to his ‘Carribean vibes’

    Oct 30, 2014, 4:44 PM EDT

    Manchester City Liverpool Soccer AP

    Sturridge on injury woes: “Maybe it’s my body type, maybe it’s hereditary.”

  9. Fabio Capello attempted to ink Messi on loan at Juventus

    Oct 30, 2014, 3:40 PM EDT

    FC Barcelona v Club Leon - Joan Gamper Trophy Getty Images

    A young Messi was eyed by Juventus in 2005, says Russia manager Frank Capello.

  10. Twitter reacts to Los Angeles FC’s entry into Major League Soccer

    Oct 30, 2014, 3:12 PM EDT

    B1NhSSECIAIZL5p

    How has the soccer world (via Twitter) responded to the news? With a mixture of interest and humor.

  11. Los Angeles officially given new MLS team; Magic Johnson, Vincent Tan among investors

    Oct 30, 2014, 2:49 PM EDT

    @MLS @MLS

    In what will be called “Los Angeles Football Club” as it goes through its branding, MLS has announced that L.A. has officially been awarded another team.

  12. PST Extra: Getting you ready for The Manchester Derby (video)

    Oct 30, 2014, 1:35 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League

    Mike Prindiville and Joe Prince-Wright join Jenna Corrado to discuss the Manchester Derby between Manchester United and Manchester City.

  13. Alan Pardew: The Premier League’s antihero

    Oct 30, 2014, 12:38 PM EDT

    Pardew Getty Images

    Like Steve McQueen in “Papillon,” only nattily-attired, the Newcastle United manager just seems to be constantly yelling out, “Hey… I’m still here.”

  14. Another Premier League club linked with US investor, ex-MLB owner

    Oct 30, 2014, 12:09 PM EDT

    Swansea

    He’s being linked with Swansea City, though club chairman Huw Jenkins said while the club is entertaining investors, any specific names would be “pure speculation.”

  15. European clubs propose later domestic Cup finals, April-May World Cup in 2022

    Oct 30, 2014, 11:15 AM EDT

    Qatar 2022

    The proposed moves would leave only 10 days prep time before the World Cup began, and would also alter the UEFA Champions League schedule.

  16. Zombie Luis Suarez terrifies London (Yes, this video is a Halloween prank)

    Oct 30, 2014, 10:40 AM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-10-30 at 9.52.50 AM

    What do you think? Mean-spirited to the public or just a decent Candid Camera-style prank?

  17. Emotional Whitecaps react to controversial PK ouster: “It was such a soft call.”

    Oct 30, 2014, 9:51 AM EDT

    Matias Laba, Kendall Waston,  Michel AP

    “I’ve got 30 and 34-year-olds in my locker room in tears because we feel it’s been unfairly taken away from us,” said coach Carl Robinson.

  18. Rumors know no window: Liverpool after Reus, Manchester United wants Draxler

    Oct 30, 2014, 9:02 AM EDT

    FC St. Pauli v Borussia Dortmund - DFB Cup Getty Images

    And it’s claimed that Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger will sign a veteran back from Juventus, bucking his trends of signing attackers and youth.

Featured video

PST Extra: The Manchester derby