Juan Mata is reportedly being targeted by Atletico Madrid, and Manchester United are hoping they may be able to use the Spaniard to sweeten the deal in their attempts to sign Antoine Griezmann.
Per Spanish outlet Fichajes (via Gary Stonehouse in the Sun), Mata is being eyed by Atleti boss Diego Simeone as he could be on his way out of Old Trafford this summer with Jose Mourinho—the man who sold him from Chelsea—set to succeed Louis van Gaal as manager.
The report added that Simeone has "resigned himself" to losing key man Griezmann, and United could attempt to offset some of the Frenchman's £60 million release clause by negotiating a swap deal that includes Mata.
Bleacher Report's Dean Jones believes Mata, 27, could well be on his way this summer, and Atletico looks an ideal destination for the playmaker:
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His arrival at the Vicente Calderon would also soften the blow were Griezmann to move the other way.
The 24-year-old has been one of Atleti's star players over the last couple of seasons, netting 34 goals in 61 La Liga appearances, per WhoScored.com.
He is exactly the kind of creative goalscorer that United need, and he could become the focal point of the Red Devils side under Mourinho.
His reported release clause of £60 million is not unreasonable, as he is still progressing as a player and could be a United star for years to come.
Mata will undoubtedly feel hard done by if he is sold by Mourinho again. When he was moved on from Chelsea in January 2014 he had been the club's player of the season for two years running.
And he has been one of United's most consistent players in the largely-disastrous Van Gaal era, with only Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney contributing to more Premier League goals this season—he has netted four times and provided three assists—per WhoScored.
However, as Squawka noted, he has been struggling of late:
Squawka Football @Squawka
Juan Mata last 19 Premier League games by numbers: 8 shots on target 0 goals from open play 0 assists Struggling. https://t.co/XuTzWQwJ722/13/2016, 2:54:11 PM
Mourinho will surely have no qualms in moving him on again should he take the manager's job, especially if it increases United's chances of signing Griezmann.
A return to Spain for the former Valencia man would be the obvious choice after six seasons in the Premier League, and he would likely work well under Simeone.
Meanwhile, if United could bring in Griezmann he could be a huge help in returning them to the upper echelons of English and European football.
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