With the new season around the corner, it’s surprising to see how Arsenal hasn’t been busier in the transfer market. Besides striker Gervinho from Lille and the young defender Carl Jenkinson, Arsenal have been too occupied trying to keep hold of midfielders Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri. While Nasri looks likely to stay, for now, the future of Fabregas is still very much in doubt as his long-awaited move to Barcelona fills up the newspaper column inches on a daily basis. With the recent announcement from Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola that one more player would be signed before the end of the summer, it seems almost inevitable that the Spaniard will finally get his deal. With that, reports have surfaced that the Gunners have been closely pursuing Spanish prodigy Juan Mata who could replace Fabregas in their midfield.
The 23-year old transferred from the youth ranks of Real Madrid to Valencia in 2007 and has taken off ever since with 129 appearances. Mata has scored 33 goals and — besides Barcelona stalwarts Xavi, Messi and Alves — has led La Liga in assists since the 2008/2009 season. Last season saw him take on the role of Valencia captain and he didn’t disappoint as the club finished third in the league.
Mata has also impressed on the international level. He played extraordinarily well for his country. He, along with Barcelona star Thiago Alcantara, are major reasons why Spain won the u-21 World Cup. He has also been a part of the u-19 squad which won their World Cup in 2006 as well as the senior team which won the World Cup last year. His form for Spain has made him a household name and he looks primed to maintain Spain’s dominance for years to come.
As a result of his standout performances for club and country, Mata fills up newspaper columns linking him to clubs like Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester United and Inter Milan. Of those teams, it’s been Arsenal who have appeared to try the hardest to sign him in the wake of constant stories about their own Spaniard’s future with the London club.
However, signing Juan Mata isn’t going to be easy or cheap for any of his interested suitors. Valencia’s finances were in a woeful state last summer, which led to the transfers of David Villa to Barcelona and David Silva to Manchester City. Yet, things have calmed down since for Valencia so they won’t feel pressured in having to sell their young captain. This may have been the reason why Valencia refused an offer by Arsenal at the start of August.
This offer is important to note because Valencia, and Mata’s father who is also his agent, made an agreement that he could be dealt for 25 million euros (21.8 million pounds) before August 1st. which would give the club a proper amount of time to acquire a replacement. Arsenal’s offer of around that price before the deadline was denied by the Spanish club which means his price now increases almost an additional 10 million pounds to 30.5 million pounds (35 million euros).
In the wake of Valencia’s refusal, Mata’s father admitted, “Valencia simply rejected their offer. After some hesitation they answered “no” to the Gunners’ offer. ‘So my son remains a Valencia player for now. But I don’t think it’s their last offer. ‘There are several offers for Mata and I think that Arsenal will come forward again. The situation is still evolving.”
Inter Milan are also looking to be a strong candidate in the Mata sweepstakes, as the Italian giants look set to make a counter offer. Harry Redknapp is also an admirer of Mata who showed his form in the u-21 World Cup. However, White Hart Lane looks like an unlikely destination for Mata as the player himself is reportedly more interested in a transfer to their London rivals, Arsenal.
Juan Mata would likely fit well in Arsenal’s midfield and overall style of play. One believer in his skill is Jack Wilshere who could potentially partner up with him. He proclaimed, “He is a top quality player, we’ve seen that in the u-21’s and in the Spanish league last season. I think the way Arsenal play would suit his game.” Wilshere has to be impressed by Mata who is a versatile midfielder that often plays from the left and keeps inside through the middle of the pitch. He can also be used as a secondary striker with adept scoring skills.
While some may argue that Mata is a little small (5 ft. 7 in.) and may struggle to adapt to the physical nature of the EPL, his skills are on the verge of world class, and he continues to improve. It’s now being reported that Arsenal will put their bid for Mata on hold until the Fabregas situation is resolved. This is a risky move by Arsenal because Barcelona look prepared to drag this interminable saga through August to as late as the transfer deadline on August 31st. At that time, Valencia could become convinced to offer their captain an extension if they feel no team will meet their costly price. Valencia coach Unai Emery is confident his young star midfielder isn’t going anywhere as he stated “Mata has gone through a process of doubts about his future but now we all believe he will stay at Valencia.”
Arsenal’s transfer season could heat up in the last weeks of the summer. Mata’s future now looks set to hang in the balance of the Fabregas saga, which will certainly make life at the Emirates as the new season commences.
Will there be a passing of the guard from one Spanish midfield maestro to another at Arsenal? What do you think?