The Juan Mata to Manchester United rumor has exploded over the past 24 hours, and has gone from something United were considering to a move that seems "likely to happen" according to the media. Common sense seemed to be something which the mainstream media were all ignoring though, at least until I read this:
What that does not factor in, however, is what the motivation might be behind any willingness on Chelsea's behalf to lose somebody of such rare talent and popularity within the club to a major rival. United might not be posing too much of a threat to their ambitions this season though that could be very different next time around especially if they start bolstering their ranks with individuals of Mata's quality.
Congratulations Phil, you're the first person writing for any of the mainstream outlets that seems to be trying to look at this from every angle. Guillem Balague suggested earlier that a deal involving Mata makes sense for all parties, but there's very little logic behind a straight January sale as far as Chelsea are concerned.
For Mata, the proposed logic would be simple. He's struggling to get minutes in a loaded attacking band at Chelsea, while at Manchester United he'd be competing with a single talented but raw teenager and a whole lot of mediocre. There's little doubt he'd be one of the first names on the team sheet, even if David Moyes had to get a bit creative with his formation in order to do so.
For United, a Mata buy is equally logical. He's better than all but 1-2 outfield players in that squad, and would instantly improve their chances of catching Everton, Liverpool, and Tottenham. While Mata may not fill their most pressing need*, he'd immediately make them a better team than the one that was brushed aside this weekend.
*They have many pressing needs.
Now we're getting to Chelsea though, and this is where the logic starts to break down. Here are six questions I asked myself while trying to determine if Chelsea have any reason to sell.
Do Chelsea need the money?
Unless they've got a ridiculous purchase in mind during the January window, then the answer is an emphatic no. Holding on to the player and selling him during the summer would make some degree of sense, but selling him in January just to pocket a tidy profit does not.
Does the club have a use for the player?
The player has seen 1,116 minutes of action with Chelsea this season, and that was before the club decided to sell Kevin De Bruyne. He doesn't seem to be one of Jose Mourinho's preferred choices at the moment, but with a crowded fixture list still to come, it's unlikely he finishes the season with less than 2,000 minutes. If an injury were to strike any of the four other options, we could easily be looking at 2,000 minutes from this weekend to the end of the season. Clearly, the answer here is yes.
Is the player's contract at a point where the club need to sell him as soon as possible?
Mata has 2.5 years remaining on his contract. This one is a no.
Is the player on a cumbersome wage?
Mata is an absolute steal compared to players of comparable quality. Again, no
Do Chelsea need the roster spot he's occupying?
In two years, the club may well have a roster crunch if all of their prospects develop as hoped. Right now, we're looking at having several unused roster slots when we have to submit them to the FA and UEFA. No.
Is the player a headache, either on or off the pitch?
None of the six criteria were answered in a manner that would suggest it's logical to sell Juan Mata to Manchester United. As Phil Lythell so excellently pointed out, it makes very little sense for the Blues to make a deal simply for the sake of making a deal.
There is a scenario in which being willing to part with Mata makes some sense for the club, though whether or not it's something United would be open to is an entirely separate matter. Chelsea need a striker, Manchester United have a striker that Jose Mourinho likes, and that striker is nearing the end of his current deal. If Ed Woodward were to change his stance on his willingness to part with Wayne Rooney, I'm sure the motivation for Chelsea to sell Juan Mata would be greater.
The only other instance in which it would make any sense for Chelsea to sell would be if the offer they received was so large that there was just no way to turn it down. I've never been of the opinion that you don't sell to rivals, just that you don't sell to rivals at anything resembling market value (or if there is a non-rival willing to match). If United were to come reasonably close to doubling what we originally paid for the player, I'd have a hard time finding too much to complain about with a deal.
It seems clear at this point that United are interested in Juan Mata, and they have both a player and enough money that they could certainly tempt Chelsea to deal. Whether or not they will is a separate matter entirely, but if I'm Michael Emenalo, I'm not signing off on a move unless they do.
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