It was well known that the biggest story for Chelsea during the January transfer window would be the future of Juan Mata. Mata has been Chelsea’s player of the year each of the last two seasons, but Jose Mourinho clearly has no use for the talented Spain international, and Mata is far too talented and valuable to be relegated to a bench role. Chelsea has made it clear that if Mata is sold they would like it to be outside of the Premier League, but rumors are heating up that Manchester United could add the 25 year old as soon as this weekend.
In fact, reports have surfaced that the two clubs have provisionally agreed to a 40 million euro transfer, a number that would break United’s club record. The deal is contingent on Mata informing Chelsea he wants to leave, as well as standard procedures like a formal offer and a physical. Man U has had all kinds of problems in their midfield this season, and Mata would give them the type of creative No. 10 that they need to maximize chances for Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney. United has also maintained that Rooney will not be a part of any deal for Mata.
Selling Mata to a domestic rival is a very risky move from Chelsea. Yes, United is no threat to Chelsea’s league ambitions this season, as the Red Devils are sitting in 7th place and have played both contests with the Blues already. However, this is a long term move from United, and Mata could come back to bite Chelsea at some point over the next few seasons. Despite the fact that players such as Oscar, Eden Hazard, Willian and Andre Schurrle have replaced Mata in Chelsea’s squad, he is still one of the best attacking midfielders in the Premier League.
There is one way that this deal makes sense for Chelsea, and that is if they use the money they earn to acquire a striker. Chelsea have been linked with both Radamel Falcao and Diego Costa in recent weeks, and either of those players would give Chelsea the lethal finisher atop their formation that they so desperately need. Of course, it would be difficult to obtain either of those players midseason, so a big transfer would probably have to wait until the summer.
The coming hours and days will prove if the reports of Mata’s imminent move to United are true, and if they are then Chelsea is taking a major risk. Mourinho has to tread carefully, because Mata is the kind of player who could give Chelsea headaches over the next few seasons. Chelsea fans will have to hope that this move is part of a bigger plan, and that the plan will result in them acquiring a world class striker.