I've been making fun of the Juan Mata transfer rumours here recently, because the Juan Mata transfer rumours are silly. Chelsea don't sell elite talents that they want to keep around, and they especially don't sell Juan Matas. And yet, the rumours persist more or less everywhere. What's going on?
If we can ignore the scenario in which Jose Mourinho looks at the Chelsea squad and decides he can't be keeping his best player around, which strikes me as implausible at best and actively delusional at worst, there's only one reasonable explanation to what's going on with Mata: He wants a raise.
Although salary data is notoriously difficult to come by, my understanding is that Mata came to Chelsea on fairly low wages, and since he hasn't signed an extension since he's not making much compared to some of the other players at Stamford Bridge. With three years left on his deal, this is a perfect time to renegotiate a long-term contract on higher wages -- there was some talk about this back in December but as far as I can tell no new deal was actually signed*.
*The Wikipedia source for his extension is the Mirror, who reported that he was 'set for' a new deal, and Chelsea never came out with any news on a new contract, which they're normally pretty good about.
If that's true, Chelsea should pounce immediately, especially because they can essentially give him a raise for free thanks to some tricky mathematics. The cost of a player per year is their amortised transfer fee plus their wages, meaning that so far, Mata has cost Chelsea £4.7 million per year (£23.5 million divided by five) plus wages. There's £14.1 million left to pay off on his deal.
So if Chelsea sign Mata to another five-year contract, the amortised transfer fee would become £2.8 million per season, freeing up £1.9 million for wages. That's a raise of £35,000 a week right there, for no cost to the club apart from committing themselves to Mata for another two seasons, which is a good thing anyway*.
*This is why Chelsea were so eager to give David Luiz and Ramires long-term contract extensions, by the way.
Should Mata want more than that, it'd only take a couple of million extra a season to make him one of Chelsea's highest-paid players. Despite his gentle demeanour, I'd expect Mata to be looking for more money. If nothing else, he's a smart guy and he knows how quickly a footballing career can end and just what he's worth to the team -- it'd be difficult to blame him for trying to secure his family's collective future.
Anyway, I think this is a play from Mata's reps looking for a bit more cash. Good luck to them. If anyone on this team deserves a raise, it's Johnny Kills.