Juan Mata has spent less than six months at Old Trafford but rumors suggest the diminutive playmaker could be heading to Barcelona.
Mata, 26, initially struggled to settle at United after his monster $65 million move from Chelsea during the January transfer window. However in his last eight games of the season Mata’s spark returned and his scored six goals for the Red Devils.
According to the Express newspaper in England, Mata could be on his way to the Nou Camp as new boss Luis Enrqiue looks to overhaul their squad after taking charge following Gerardo Martino stepping down at the end of this season with Barca finishing second in La Liga and being knocked out in the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League to Atletico Madrid.
New United boss Louis van Gaal is said to be interested in letting Mata go, which will add extra cash to his own rebuild at United which is expected to be extensive this summer. Since van Gaal took charge United have already been linked with multiple attacking midfielders, such as Marco Reus, Toni Kroos, Arjen Robben and others, as it seems as though Mata’s time could be up after becoming David Moyes’ marquee signing during his ill-fated spell in the hotseat at Old Trafford.
Would Mata really be willing to leave United after less than half a season?
If he is going to find himself in another situation where he will be on the bench, like he was at Chelsea under Jose Mourinho, then Mata’s unlikely to stick around and play second fiddle to Wayne Rooney as the main playmaker in van Gaal’s side.
Barca’s core of midfield tricksters plus other attackers such as Alexis Sanchez, Pedro and Christian Tello need freshening up. Bringing Mata back to Spanish soccer could be a masterstroke from Barcelona and the Spaniards quick passing and moving would slot in superbly with the tiki-taka style employed across the board at Barca.
Whether this rumor has any legs remains to be seen but Mata certainly doesn’t want his talented backside to spend any more time on the bench of Premier League teams.
Goals and controversial penalty decisions are a big part of Saturday morning’s quartet of Premier League matches, all of which are at the break.
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Arsenal 1-1 Stoke City
Joe Allen took an elbow from Granit Xhaka inside the 18, and Lee Mason awarded a PK that Charlie Adam converted to give the visitors an early lead. But Theo Walcott scored his 100th goal as a Gunner off a classy Hector Bellerin cross to make it 1-1 before the break.
Burnley 2-1 Bournemouth
The Cherries will have to dig out of another hole this week, and it all began with Jeff Hendrick‘s phenomenal opener. Fellow Irishman Steven Ward scored an economical to goal to double the lead.
But Ryan Fraser continued his fine December with an assist on Benik Afobe‘s goal before halftime.
Hull City 1-0 Crystal Palace
Robert Snodgrass drew a penalty with a pretty easy grass grab, and the Tigers have a
Swansea City 0-0 Sunderland
Not much cooking at the Liberty Stadium.
One win in 10 for Ronald Koeman‘s Everton has the Dutchman on the hot seat.
Koeman seems to be clawing for air after the Toffees’ latest setback, a 3-2 loss at Watford.
The loss puts the Hornets ahead of Everton on the PL table, and — while unlikely — it’s a mathematical possibility that the Toffees could be a bottom half team by the end of the weekend.
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That’s a brutal development for a club expected to challenge for a European place this season.
“I see a lot of similar problems in the team. The team is too much reactive. Of course it’s maybe a lack of confidence, but if you start the game well, 1-0 up, you need a bigger belief in the team and not going back and defending, and nervous, and not enough ball possession. In my opinion that’s a problem.”
A big problem with that? It can be put down to the manager. Is Koeman in trouble already?
Jeff Hendrick, take a bow.
Burnley’s Republic of Ireland international midfielder pulled off a stunning piece of skill on Saturday to put the Clarets ahead against Bournemouth.
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A long ball forward was flicked on to Hendrick and he took a stunning first touch to tee himself and then settled himself before spanking a volley into the top corner.
Sensational goal from Burnley’s club-record signing.
Click play on the video above to watch it.
There’s a danger in observing Lionel Messi on a week-by-week basis, and it has a lot to do with how he makes greatness look routine.
So while it’s easy to dismiss yet another mazy dribble through a defense, one of those “Frogger” style with calm-but-vicious cutbacks, try to consider everything that goes into Messi’s second goal against Osasuna early Saturday.
[ MORE: Watford 3-2 Everton ]
On first look, you might count 9 touches for Messi starting with his right-footed collection of the ball. But move to the slow motion replays, and recognize the truth: Often Messi is letting the ball do the work for him, essentially moving the duo closer to goal while he used his preferred left foot as a must-respect threat.
That he does it in such traffic and at full speed is incredible. It’s literally one of those goals in which a linguistic luminary like Ray Hudson would have trouble over-emphasizing the greatness.
Messi now has 11 La Liga goals in 12 matches, and 22 in 19 overall.