As Chelsea prepare to take on Manchester United tonight in a mouthwatering early season clash in the English Premier League, confusion surrounds the future of their Spanish playmaker Juan Mata.
Returning Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho insists Mata is not for sale, despite continued speculation that he could be involved in a swap deal with Wayne Rooney, which would see Rooney come to Stamford Bridge and Mata head to Manchester, the home of tonight’s game.
The rumours surrounding Mata have intensified over the last few days after Chelsea brought in yet another playmaker. This time it was Willian, the Brazilian who has signed from Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala, in a deal believed to be worth around £30m.
Willian had looked all set to join up with former Chelsea boss Andre Villas Boas at Spurs, but the lure of Champions League football seemed to prove too strong and he should complete his signing on Wednesday after a work permit hearing.
The signing of Willian leaves Mourinho with an embarrassment of riches in the attacking midfield department. Already blessed with fellow Brazilian Oscar and Eden Hazard from last season, he had already added Kevin De Bruyne and Andre Schurrle to his ranks, plus Englishman Victor Moses is a more than capable back-up option.
When you pay £30m for a player, they won’t expect to sit on the bench and Willian won’t be an exception to that rule. That could mean a shock departure for Mata, who has been superb during the last two seasons for Chelsea, earning the player of the year on both occasions.
However, he has looked isolated this season under Mourinho as he only made the bench for their season opener against Hull City last week, before being shoved out on the right hand side against Aston Villa for 65 minutes on Wednesday night.
And this was before Willian arrived. It seems obvious already that Mourinho prefers Oscar and Hazard to play off a striker such as Fernando Torres or Demba Ba.
Furthermore, he is still on the lookout for a striker before the transfer window closes, so a swap deal with Man United for Rooney may become extremely tempting for the Portuguese ‘special one’.
Mata would be something of a coup for Manchester United or any club as it has been revealed today that Spurs failed in an attempt to get him after selling Gareth Bale especially in what promises to be such an intriguing title race. However, right now despite Willian’s arrival giving Mourinho even bigger selection headaches, it seems as though this is a problem he wishes to have.
He wants to keep Mata as part of a big squad for dealing with numerous competitions early on in the season but the questions remains will Juan Mata add to his 18 goals in 70 appearances so far for Chelsea, or will he be heading for pastures new come September?
Written by Ewan McQueen
Follow Ewan on Twitter @ewanmcqueen_91
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