Just 24 hours after reportedly being offered a fringe role at Manchester United by Jose Mourinho, news has surfaced that Italian giants Internazionale are interested in Manchester United’s marquee playmaker, Juan Mata. The Spaniard, who is only expected to start one in three games this season, reportedly could be offered a route out by Internazionale, a team that laboured to a Europa League positioned finish in the Italian Serie A due to attacking deficiencies.
Even Mourinho, who is widely believed not to fancy Mata as his main option, believes the Spaniard can still offer a lot to Manchester United. However, the reports and simple logic dictate that Mata has the option to leave as well, and he won’t need to force a move away which means United can command a relatively decent fee for him. In terms of Internazionale, Mata would be linking up with the mercurial likes of Ivan Perisic, Mauro Icardi, and Marcelo Brozovic, and he would likely be the best Inter lynchpin since Wesley Sneijder lit up the San Siro in blue and black.
That being said, another interesting aspect of the report from The Daily Star is that Mata is Inter’s second choice after Brazilian wonder-kid Gabriel Jesus. This report is likely flawed on multiple levels for two reasons. Firstly, Mata is an established footballer at the highest level, while Gabriel Jesus is a 19-year-old playing in Brazil. They are not comparable footballers. Secondly, it could be argued that Gabriel Jesus wouldn’t even make it in to Internazionale’s setup, while Mata would arguably the gem in Internazionale’s crown.
However, if the reports are even somewhat true, there are interesting links to be formed, because Gabriel Jesus has been linked with United on multiple occasions. Perhaps the Brazilian could be the player to replace Mata at Old Trafford, and, as Mata hasn’t been a key part of United’s long-term plans for a while now, Mata could be sold to Inter as a form of fending off competition if United sees Gabriel Jesus as a plan for the future. There is one side regardless of who comes in to replace Mata, though- there are few footballers on the planet who could replace his influence on United and be comfortable with second team football. Perhaps the likes of Adnan Januzaj and Andreas Pereira are more worth a chance than anyone who could be added to the club’s ranks anyways.
The only party who seems likely to win in this situation is Internazionale. United stands to not only lose on Mata but also the fee they paid for Mata in 2014. Mata himself also loses, as he is currently very settled in England and would likely only move back to his native Spain. It would not surprise me if it turned out Mata wanted a change of scenery after he’s struggled to find a place in so many different systems at United and Chelsea. But moving to a non-Champions League club in the Italian league is a massive step down from the likes of the Premier League and La Liga. Unless Mata had some ridiculous seasons, he’d probably never play for Spain against either.
There is nothing from The Daily Star to prove that this is true, but there is also nothing to prove it is false- once again, the transfer rumour leaves us to speculate because the media simply only cares about the number of people clicking on articles. But, on a logical sense, this move doesn’t make the most sense- Inter was reportedly one of the multiple clubs interested in Marouane Fellaini a couple of months ago, and it would be more important to get him off the books than Mata. In addition, Mata hasn’t decided to leave United yet, or at least it hasn’t been confirmed- if Mata is willing to stay at United as a fringe player, he becomes one of the best worldwide fringe players in a side that could contend for all competitions in the future.
Mata has already done so much as a footballer individually that it may not be as big a surprise as it seems to see him stay as a figure of leadership off the pitch. He’s won everything at the international level and the Champions League with Chelsea, but he’s yet to win the Premier League, and one would believe that staying at United could give him a good chance of doing exactly that. Circumstances have changed since Mata left Mourinho’s Chelsea three years ago- Mata has gotten older, his footballing style has slightly changed and Mourinho will not admit it but he has also changed. This must be considered before making any conclusions about Mata’s future at Old Trafford, where even Mourinho agrees he has a home but he still has a great decision to make.