The £37 million transfer of Juan Mata from Chelsea to Manchester United, once completed, will mean the London side have been involved in the two biggest ever transfers between English clubs. The fee to secure Mata, who is currently in the north-west undergoing a medical exam ahead of completing the deal tomorrow, will leapfrog the £35million Liverpool paid Premier League rivals, Newcastle United, for Andy Carroll in 2011.
The Mata transfer, however, is still smaller than the £50 million transfer of his fellow countryman Fernando Torres from Liverpool to Stamford Bridge, also in 2011. Mata’s deal, which is reported to be worth in the region of £40m with various add-ons, dwarfs the £23.5million Chelsea paid La Liga club Valencia for the players services.
Mata was an instant hit in west London, boasting the last two club Player of the Year Award titles as proof of his popularity.Things, however, started to turn sour as Spain international Mata found himself frustrated at the lack of playing time afforded him by returning manager Jose Mourinho. The Portuguese has instead opted to deploy Belgian Eden Hazard and Brazilian Oscar either behind the front line or in attacking midfield roles. This meant that Mata got little air time in what is World Cup year.
Despite his reasons for wanting to go, many Blues fans are scratching their heads at why his exit was allowed. It appears needless given that Chelsea, owned by billionaire Roman Abramovich, do not need a cash injection. Chelsea does, however, have a hefty wage bill. Taking Mata’s reported weekly salary of £70,000-a-week off the books will mean that European governing body, the Union of European Football Associations in Europe (UEFA), will look at the club’s accounts more favorably. Chelsea will certainly have caught their attention, featuring in the two largest English transfer deals.
It does suggest, embarrassingly for United boss David Moyes, that Mourinho no longer sees the Old Trafford side as serious rivals. By letting one of his best players join a the beleaguered champions, who this week dropped out of the top three in the Deloitte football rich list for the first time, he was essentially dismissing them as a threat.
In fact, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger even made a swipe towards United by calling the Mata transfer unfair. The Frenchman said that it was not because he failed in a bid for Mata in the summer, although that is almost certainly part of it, but because Arsenal have to play United again and Chelsea do not. Mourinho will be willing his former employee to destroy every title-challenging team he faces, while Wenger could be left wondering what might have been.
Torres, in contrast, has not been the major success he was when he made his switch from Atlético Madrid to Anfield in 2008. A combination of loss of form, niggling injuries and lack of confidence means he has not reached the high standards at Chelsea that he once featured. Many would argue his last season at Liverpool was far from vintage, and so offloading the player was, in hindsight at least, good business by the 18-time champions. Mata and Torres’ big-money moves, even though they are the largest English transfers of the year, are small beer combined with the respective £85m and £80m fees Real Madrid paid Tottenham Hotspur and United for Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo.
By Robert Shepherd