Report: Chelsea, Manchester United agree ‘provisional’ $65 million fee for Juan Mata

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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.

[MORE: Fit, value, circumstance – initial reaction to Mata’s potential move.]

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.

Napoli takes commanding Serie A lead after Juventus loss

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Six-time Serie A defending champions Juventus are in trouble. Not a lot, but the heat has been turned up.

A wild 3-2 loss to Sampdoria means the Italian giants are now four points back of Napoli in the Serie A table, and heading into their Champions League matchup with Barcelona, there is plenty of soul-searching to do in Turin.

Juventus nearly mounted what would have been a monumental comeback, down 3-0 heading into stoppage-time but posting goals by Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala in the first and fourth minutes of injury time. It was not to be, and the four-point deficit through 13 games not only leaves Juventus looking at Napoli more than a game in front of them, but also over their shoulders at Roma and Inter Milan both a point behind in third and fourth.

Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was kept out of the lineup as he continues to deal emotionally with the World Cup miss, and it showed. After a scoreless first half at Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Duzan Zapata beat Stephan Lichtensteiner in the air and sent a looping header over a flatfooted Wojciech Szczesny for the opening goal.

With 20 minutes to go, Sampdoria struck again as former Premier League creator Gaston Ramirez fed 21-year-old Lucas Torreira at the top of the box, and with nobody closing him down, he fired into the bottom-left corner of the net. They got the eventual winner nine minutes later after an embarrassing defensive breakdown by the visitors. A free-kick saw two attackers in front of net against five defenders, but somehow Gianmarco Ferrari was completely unmarked in front of the net for a tap-in.

Higuain struck from the penalty spot and Dybala hit on the counter to beat Emiliano Vivaldo at his near post, but it wasn’t enough for Juventus. The defensive frailty will need to be corrected moving forward, as they face a vital match at Napoli on December 1st, and a loss there could spell disaster for their title charge.

American right back Moore makes first La Liga start

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La Liga saw an American amongst its Starting XIs on Sunday.

Shaquell Moore made his first La Liga start in Levante’s 2-0 win at Las Palmas on Sunday.

According to WhoScored, Moore completed 71 percent of his passes, had three interceptions and four tackles won. He was credited with one key pass and three crosses.

[ MORE: McKennie impresses again ]

The right back turned 21 earlier this month, and our primitive research shows him as the first U.S. player to make a La Liga start since Oguchi Onyewu at Malaga in 2013.

Oddly enough, Sunday’s opposition had an American on the books last season with Emmanuel Sabbi skipped college soccer to join Las Palmas. Sabbi joined Danish side Hobro this summer, and made his first start on Friday.

Jozy Altidore spent time with Villarreal and Kasey Keller played for Rayo Vallecano.

Levante’s next match is Sunday at Real Sociedad.

Spurs reportedly have right to match any Bale bid

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What’s Gareth Bale worth these days? And how much higher than that figure is Manchester United willing to go?

Those are the two main questions that arise from the idea that Tottenham Hotspur may have a contractual privilege to match any offer made to Real Madrid for the ex-Spurs star.

[ MORE: McKennie impresses again ]

Bale, 28, was worth $112 million in today’s dollars when Real bought him in 2013. He has 70 goals and 55 assists in 159 matches for the Spanish outfit.

How much is he worth now? Certainly nothing near the same figure, as Romelu Lukaku went for $99 million this summer and Alvaro Morata went for $80 million.

The Express says Real expects $112 million right back for Bale, which seems insane. Bale has three goals and four assists in nine matches for Real this summer, and had nine and five in 27 outings last season.

Bale did, however, scored 19 goals in 23 La Liga matches two seasons ago, but he’s dealt with significant injuries on a near-annual basis.

Spurs transfer record is the $48 million it spent on Davinson Sanchez this summer. Whatever Manchester United, or anything suitor, will bid for Bale will likely be higher than that figure.

At one point would it make sense for Spurs to smash their record and wage structure to line up Bale, Dele Alli, Harry Kane, and Christian Eriksen in the same attack (I mean, holy smoke, just close your eyes and visualize that!).

Real reportedly wants to make the move happen in January, while United wants to do it in the summer.

Moyes: West Ham mentality, confidence is shaky

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David Moyes needed to see his charges in action, and didn’t love the mental side of West Ham’s 2-0 loss to Watford on Sunday at Vicarage Road.

The Irons had plenty of chances on the day, with Cheikhou Kouyate seeing one shot saved before missing another in perhaps the two best of the day.

[ RECAP: Watford 2-0 West Ham ]

And Watford’s first goal was pretty unlucky, as Andre Gray bungled a shot that went right to Will Hughes for his first Premier League goal.

Moyes’ Irons also lost Marko Arnautovic with what he thinks is a broken thumb, but is more worried about the club’s poise. From the BBC:

“I was only ever going to find out what the players were like by working with them and seeing them play today. When the opportunities didn’t go for us, the confidence went away.

“We have to try to find a way of winning. The important thing is to be in the game, and when we lost the second goal, it became difficult.”