Chelsea are poised for a testing January transfer period after it was suggested that four of their biggest Premier League rivals are already considering a move for Juan Mata.
The Spaniard's situation at Stamford Bridge has come under heavy speculation since Jose Mourinho began to favour other midfield talents over him, and French media (h/t Daily Star's Nick Lustig) say Paris Saint-Germain are preparing a £40 million offer for his services.
Lustig's report states:
Mata is desperate to cement his place in Spain's World Cup squad ahead of next summer's finals in Brazil and the promise of first-team football may prove to hard to turn down.
PSG failed in their attempts to bring Mata to the Parc des Princes in the summer, but manager Laurent Blanc is eager to strike a deal with Mourinho for the playmaker in the new year ...
Arsenal, Liverpool, United and Spurs have all been monitoring Mata's situation with a view to stepping up their interest in the January transfer window.
According to Transfermarkt.co.uk, Mata has played 382 minutes of Premier League football so far this season and has featured for a full 90 minutes just once, during the 2-0 Capital One Cup win over Swindon Town in September.
Having said that, if the West Londoners were to sell Mata to another Premier League club, it would be a swift change in stance from Mourinho. Just this summer, the Portuguese was reported by the Daily Mail's Charlie Skillen to have pulled the plug on Demba Ba's move to Arsenal because he saw the Gunners as title rivals.
In the case of Mata, Barca Stuff actually shows the playmaker is still succeeding in the Spanish national team:
Only Juan Mata (3 goals, 5 assists) has participated in more goals for Spain in the year 2013 than Pedro (4 goals, 3 assists) [via opta]— barcastuff (@barcastuff) November 18, 2013
It's fair to say that any English side would only be improved due to Mata's presence. Admittedly Spurs and Arsenal already have a thriving mass of creative midfielders, but Mata is arguably a superior solution to Christian Eriksen at White Hart Lane, while the Chelsea man would blend superbly with the likes of Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla at the Emirates.
United and Liverpool lack squad depth when it comes to their own attacking options, and Mata would surely walk into either team.
It still seems likely, however, that Mata will stay in West London after Mourinho was reported by Tony Banks of the Express saying that his charge was "not for sale."
Those comments might well be taken with a pinch of salt considering this is the same manager who back in August admitted that all managers lie, per Sam Lee of Goal.com:
We all say no [we don't want to sign players] but we lie, until the last day of the market we are all waiting for something to happen, even when we say we are very happy with our squad we lie because we always want to make it better.
However, Mourinho is a manager who favours squad rotation. He relies upon keeping his players fit and athletic for an entire season, so Mata likely still has a role to play in his plans.
Mata's decrease in playing time is a surprise to many considering how important he's been for the Blues since arriving from Valencia in 2011.
Should his current pattern of on-pitch minutes continue in its current vein, rumours of an exit are only likely to intensify. Mourinho, though, is a clever individual and will be all too aware of how much his player would improve Chelsea's rivals if let go in January.