Three hours ago, it was a rumor. Now reports out of England have Chelsea and Manchester United with a “provisional” agreement for Juan Mata. For a United record $65.8 million, the 25-year-old Spaniard would make his way west, provided the two Premier League titans complete the more formal parts of Mata’s transfer.
That’s what the “provisional” tag is all about. According the to The Guardian, which initially reported the possibility of a deal late Tuesday, two things still need to happen. Though the clubs have agreed on the potential fee, Manchester United needs to offer a format bid for Mata. The former Valencia attacker must also make his desire to leave known to Chelsea manager José Mourinho, who has held on to the talented playmaker despite dropping him from the team’s starting lineup.
That’s left Mata with no goals and two assists in 13 league appearances this season. Over the previous two campaigns, however, Mata was Chelsea’s most productive player, recording 18 goals and 30 assists in 69 league appearances between Aug. 2011 and May 2013.
That production had the 32-time Spanish international linked with a move to Paris Saint-Germain this summer, a transfer that never came to fruition. Since, Mata’s agent-father has been trying to arrange a move back to La Liga, with Manchester United’s recent interest providing the attacking midfielder another option.
We went through the implications of this move in our previous post (linked, above), but with its status elevated from rumor to distinct possibility, it’s worth giving more consideration to that $65.8 million figure. Manchester United’s current record transfer fee is the $55.8 million (£30.7 million) they gave Tottenham for Dimitar Berbatov in 2008. Just as that figure seemed inflated at the time, so does Mata’s potential fee now, though there are mitigating circumstances that could justify a new record expenditure.
With United lurking outside of England’s UEFA Champions League spots, this January’s spending takes on increased importance. Preserving a place in the top four becomes a paramount concern, with the club currently sitting in seventh place. Whether Mata alone can do that is unlikely, but adding his creativity to a stagnant attack would be a significant step forward. The Red Devils would need to pass Liverpool, Tottenham, and Everton to qualify for 2014-15’s Champions League.
That standing provides a different context to United’s winter dealings, with the club now willing to spend enough to convince a rival to cash in on an inflated price. While the Red Devils have never before spent to the levels of Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain, now the club is willing to give one big spender money while potentially keeping Mata from the other.