Juan Mata's Chelsea nightmare could be offered respite as Atletico Madrid prepare to enter talks over taking the unwanted Spaniard on loan for the remainder of the season.
As reported by John Cross of the Mirror, this deal would be designed to see the former Valencia star link up with Diego Simeone's side on a permanent basis at the conclusion of the current campaign:
Mata's father and agent, Juan senior, is due to travel to London to discuss his future with the Blues' hierarchy.
It is understood Atletico have been lined up as potential suitors in January. The Spanish club are hoping to sign him on loan with a view to a permanent move in the summer.
Despite maintaining he wants to keep Mata at Stamford Bridge, Jose Mourinho has told the player "the club's door is open" if he wishes to leave, per Sky Sports.
This has drummed up plenty of interest across Europe—as Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, Inter Milan and Napoli currently lead the list of interested clubs, per Jeremy Wilson of The Telegraph—but Cross' report suggests Mata could return to his homeland in an attempt to rescue his place in Spain's squad for this year's World Cup.
Despite winning Chelsea's Player of the Season award for two successive years, Mata's influence has waned since Mourinho returned to West London.
The 25-year-old has made just 12 starts and three substitute appearances across the Premier League and Champions League this season, per WhoScored.com. He is yet to score a goal in either competition, but did net during the Blues' 2-0 Capital One Cup win over Arsenal on Oct. 29, 2013.
Mata has two assists in the domestic division this year. He laid on important goals during the 1-1 draw with Tottenham on Sept. 28, and most recently in the 3-1 win over Southampton on Dec. 1. This is a far cry from the player who scored 12 and assisted 12 in last year's Premier League.
The likeable Spaniard is not famed for being a fiery character, but it seems a lack of opportunities got the better of him when he was ditched just after half-time in the reverse fixture against Mauricio Pochettino's Saints.
Mata's angry reaction, shown below courtesy iChelsea News on Twitter and reported by James Riach of The Guardian, suggests frustration is beginning to cripple his happiness.
As suggested by Jonathan Wilson on WhoScored.com, Mata doesn't appear to be a "Mourinho player," the type of individual who can use vigour and verve to dominate across multiple roles:
When Mata came off after 53 minutes, at Southampton, along with Andre Schurrle, they were replaced by Oscar and Willian.
The impact was immediate and a game that had been beetling along at 0-0 was transformed into a comfortable Chelsea win. Oscar and Willian looked bigger, stronger and faster than Mata and Schurrle.
As such they fitted the profile, or at least the stereotype: Mourinho likes even his creators to buzz with purpose and muscle.
Should Mourinho deem this analysis to be true, it is best for all parties if Mata quickly moves on.
Atletico would be in dreamland if they landed the exciting player and may finally possess the firepower to make their current five-point lead over Real a permanent fixture of this year's La Liga table.
Mata's future is sure to continue cropping up over the next few weeks. An excellent player appears to be up for grabs, and if he isn't needed at Chelsea, you can bet he will make an impact elsewhere.