The transfer market dominoes, jittery for some time, finally look to be about to fall—and, perhaps not surprisingly, the club most likely to deliver the fateful flick to the train is Tottenham Hotspur.
With Gareth Bale expected to complete his world-record, £86 million move to Real Madrid in a matter of days, if not hours (Marca has claimed the agreement is “total”), Spurs are thought to have moved to spend a portion of their revenue from the 24-year-old on Chelsea playmaker Juan Mata.
Having already acquired midfielders Etienne Capoue from Toulouse, Nacer Chadli from Twente, Paulinho from Corinthians and striker Roberto Soldado from Valencia, the capture of Mata would take the London club’s summer spending to well over £80 million and go some distance to replacing Bale, who scored 21 Premier League goals for Tottenham last season.
On Monday the Daily Mail’s David Kent reported Mata to be a transfer target of Spurs, although he also quoted Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho’s insistence that the Spain international was not for sale.
“We need alternatives and rotation and we need players to keep that intensity and that dynamic,” he remarked when asked about his myriad attacking options ahead of Monday’s match against Manchester United at Old Trafford. “It is crucial because of the game we want to play and the intensity we want to have.”
Still, there would seem to be plenty of motivation to go around regarding this prospective move.
Ever since Mourinho’s return to Stamford Bridge, it has been suggested that Mata does not fit into his plans. While he has previously rebuffed such speculation, his recent acquisition of Shakhtar Donetsk playmaker Willian would seem to suggest the 25-year-old is some way down on his depth chart.
Mata, no doubt, will be wanting to play as much as possible this term, having won Chelsea’s Player of the Year award in each of the last two seasons.
That the World Cup is less than 10 months away will only be extra motivation for getting as many minutes under his belt as possible. Having enjoyed such success with the Blues since arriving from Valencia in 2011 he could be forgiven for feeling aggrieved if he does, in fact, find himself buried in the pecking order.
Then there are Spurs, who thought they had acquired Willian for £30 million—going so far as to conduct his medical—before Chelsea snatched him from under their noses.
Making a serious offer for Mata, and eventually signing him, would represent meaningful payback for Tottenham. With manager Andre Villas-Boas likely to switch between 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 formations for much of the season, he would be getting a player well used to operating in both systems.
In any event, with the Bale saga finally wrapping up, it appears more than likely that Spurs will make at least one more significant acquisition before the transfer window closes in a week’s time.
And Mata, should he be that player, would make sense on many levels.