Mata on the move: Five potential destinations for Man Utd maestro
Poor Juan Mata can’t seem to win. Everytime the well-mannered Spaniard settles, he suddenly finds his face no longer fits. The talented Spain star was Chelsea’s Player of the Year for two consecutive seasons before being dropped to the bench, and then given the boot by Blues boss Jose Mourinho.
It seemed like Mata had finally found a permanent home at Old Trafford, but despite also recording impressive stats for Manchester United (who are 33/1 to win the Premier League), it appears that the playmaker does not fit into Louis van Gaal’s system either.
Coral writers take a look at potential destinations where the Real Madrid Castilla academy product could thrive, with Mata needing a move to a club where he can be the centre of attention.
Whilst La Liga holders Atleti already boast an abundance of attacking options, Mata would be quite the coup. Diego Simeone bases his tactics around players who can provide versatility and work rate, which would not, admittedly, make Mata an ideal match on the surface.
However, the Argentine coach could work wonders on the Spaniard’s confidence, and has the nous to build an effective team around him. The idea of a playmaker of Mata’s calibre supporting an attack consisting of Antoine Griezmann and Mario Mandzukic would surely be too tempting to turn down.
The prospect of retaining La Liga and defeating city rivals Real with a former Castilla product leading the way would also be a bonus for the Vicente Calderon faithful.
Serie A giants Juventus are currently tipped as the frontrunners to secure Mata’s services, and could be set to benefit from United’s purported interest in Arturo Vidal.
With Sebastian Giovinco out of contract next summer, there could be space in the squad for the Spaniard, and the Old Lady may demand Mata as part of any deal for prize asset Vidal.
The slower pace and heavy focus on tactics in Serie A could be ideal for a player of Mata’s intelligence, where his quickness of thought would be valued over his lack of speed and dynamism.
Ligue 1 giants Monaco are unlikely to be able to offer Mata top dollar to join, considering recent financial restrictions, but the skilful attacker appears to be the type of player that would favour game time over a bulging wage packet.
The nouveau riche side have yet to replace Colombia superstar James Rodriguez after his move to Los Blancos, meaning Mata could walk straight into a starting spot. Such a move would mean Portugal maestro Joao Moutinho would be able to dictate play from deeper in midfield, and Monaco could also use on-loan striker Radamel Falcao as leverage in any potential deal.
Rafael Benitez is in need of a boost to revitalise Napoli from their relatively poor start to the season, and could look to his compatriot to add spark to the Europa League side.
Aside from the former Liverpool and Valencia coach, Mata could find it easier to adapt to life in Serie A alongside countrymen Raul Albiol, Michu and Jose Callejon.
The 26-year-old could prove to be the perfect foil for Gonzalo Higuain, giving the Neapolitan club more impetus in attack and the extra quality to challenge the likes of Juventus and Roma.
After netting Higuain from Los Blancos, Benitez certainly has the pulling power to lure Mata to Serie A.
Mata is still a Los Che fan favourite, and rightly so, after scoring 33 goals in 129 La liga appearances for the Spanish side. Being cast as the homecoming hero may be just what the attacking midfielder needs to get back to his best and, with Nuno Espirito Santa’s side currently flying high, there would be no rush or great expectations.
The Mestalla was the stage on which Mata first blossomed and he could thrive once again at the heart of his former team. Playing back in his country of birth would also do the midfielder’s chances of earning a slot in the national side no harm, and could be the key to his renaissance.