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Where next for Juan Mata?

Tuesday 31st May 2016
The incoming of Jose Mourinho at Manchester United has caused a lot of ruffling of feathers in the dressing room. Many players will know that their place in the team is safe, David de Gea in particular, while others will be looking over their shoulders in fear. The likes of Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford will be keen for the new season to start keeping in mind Mourinho's tendency to loan youth out, there is one player in the side that might already be evaluating his options.

Juan Mata was a fixture at Chelsea when they won the Champions League and Europa League and was a firm fan favourite too. However, when Jose Mourinho returned to Chelsea, the Spaniard fell out of favour and was eventually sold in the 2014 January transfer window to Manchester United for around £37 million.

Mata is undoubtedly a talented player. He has a good range of passing to go with his quick feet and he is intelligent on and off the ball, able to make space for his teammates or find room for himself. While he has had a difficult time at Manchester United this season, he has been one of the players that has been constantly rotated by the outgoing Louis van Gaal and has struggled due to this. Even the club's all-time top scorer Wayne Rooney has not been spared the fans ire. However, is it so much Mata's fault if he has been poor when playing out of position?

What will happen now for Juan Mata then? Mourinho was happy to see him leave at Chelsea with the likes of Eden Hazard, Willian and Oscar preferred out wide, so will history repeat itself in Manchester? Here, we evaluate his potential suitors and why they are or aren't likely to happen.

Spain



If Mata were to leave then this would probably be his favoured option. The Spaniard spent four years at Valencia before joining Chelsea with his clever style of play and neat touches are very akin to Spanish football. It might be a very intelligent move on Mata's part to return to Spain a shrewd movement on his part.

What would be interesting is the possible suitors for him in Spain. Real Madrid do not need another winger with their explosive wide players already at their disposal, while he is not technically good enough to play for Barcelona. This leaves the likes of Atletico Madrid, however, one of the reported reasons Mata fell down the pecking order at Chelsea was because he was not as willing and able in defence as the likes of Willian. Therefore, Atletico's Diego Simeone is unlikely to make a move for a player that does not fit his organised and willing style of player. This then leaves teams such as Villarreal and Valencia. Mata will probably feel that his talent deserves European football, which fits the bill at Villarreal, however, the cost of bringing Mata in would likely be a stumbling point in any deal.

This, therefore, means that his former club, Valencia, are likely to be the only other suitors in Spain. While Valencia's struggles have been well documented this season, they are still one of Spain's biggest clubs with the fans demanding a better performance next season. It would perhaps be a huge statement of intent from Valencia to bring Mata, a player that was successful in his previous stint with the club, back to Spain.

France/Italy



With options in Spain slim, it may fall to an Italian or French teams to make a move for him. However, it seems to be another fairly barren area. Paris Saint-Germain has the money to take Mata and they also have European football next season. However, it remains to be seen whether or not they would need the Spaniard. While he can play on the wing or in a more central position, PSG are inundated with some high-class talent. Angel Di Maria, Lucas Moura, Edinson Cavani, Marco Verratti and Javier Pastore would prove very difficult to displace. The player with the closest style to Mata is Di Maria who is more technically gifted than Mata and quicker, which seems to beg the question: would they really want Mata?

In Italy, there may be a few more possible destinations for the Spaniard. The likes of Juventus have shown recently that they are willing to spend to strengthen their team especially as they were unable to really make an impact in Europe this season. Roma and Napoli will also be looking to improve their squad with European duties next season. Juventus and Roma, in particular, will need to bring in a new winger as Juve have Juan Cuadrado's loan ending this season while Mohamed Salah's loan spell ends at Roma.

Manchester United



The final option is Mata remaining at Manchester United. While Mourinho was obviously not a fan of the Spaniard at Chelsea, things may have changed in the ensuing years. It was well documented that Mourinho had lost some players in the Chelsea dressing room with that being one of the key factors in his downfall. Therefore, it may be a shrewd move on Mourinho's part to try and keep many of the key figures in the dressing room on his side.

Therefore, Mata may profit from this next year with Mourinho. The Portuguese is not coming to Old Trafford to a squad packed with top players. Instead, he is taking charge of a side that has struggled for the past few years and only has a handful of World class player in its ranks along with some exceptionally promising youth players. This next season is likely to be one which precedes transition in the side then. The new manager will want to find out who works in the team, and who does not. It is almost a trial period for Mata then. If he is given his chance, he has to take it.

 
Ben Darvill

I graduated with an upper second class degree in English and Creative writing from Cardiff Metropolitan University. I have been a freelance sports writer since leaving University and have written for a number of online websites. I am a Chelsea and England fan but I enjoy watching any team play as I have an intense passion for football.


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