Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata must make the switch to Serie A with Juventus if he finds himself marginalised under Louis Van Gaal at Old Trafford.
After a summer splurge of spending that saw United lavish £150 million on talent, the Spaniard’s role in the new regime has come underscrutiny following the arrivals of both Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao from Real Madrid and Monaco.
Despite boasting respectable statistics – he has found the net seven times in 18 appearances in a red shirt – Mata has failed to impress against England’s elite and may find a move to Italy the only way to reignite a faltering career.
It seems staggering to think that less than two years ago the 26-year-old was tussling with Luis Suarez and Gareth Bale for the PFA Player of the Year award.
Having led Chelsea to the promise land of Champions League glory under Roberto Di Matteo in 2012, Mata hit new heights under interim manager Rafael Benitez and helped play a key role in their surge to Europa League success the following year.
He scored 20 goals in 64 appearances during that campaign, with the most important coming at Old Trafford where he scored a late winner to boost the Blues’ hopes of Champions League qualification.
Mata seemed an untouchable figure, recognised by his peers in being named Chelsea’s Player of the Year, yet the return of Jose Mourinho was to signal the start of what has become the darkest phase of his career to date.
The Portuguese’s return was always going to be bad news for Mata, with Mourinho keen on a system that would fail to bring the best out of the Spaniard.
Prior to becoming United’s record signing under David Moyes he scored just a solitary goal all season, with that strike coming in the Capital One Cup during a 2-0 victory over Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.
Moyes bought him to Manchester but since then he has looked a shadow of the player that once took the Premier League by storm and failed to help save the Scot’s turbulent tenure with a series of lacklustre displays.
Due to Manchester Uniuted already possessing Wayne Rooney, Shinji Kagawa and Adnan Januzaj, the Spaniard was often forced to play out wide – but despite returning to his favoured central position under Van Gaal still looks a player crippled by expectation and lack of self confidence.
The arrivals of Di Maria and Falcao have made United’s squad more unbalanced than ever, and due to his lack of pace and the amount of bodies in his position, Mata could soon be surplus to requirements.
Massimiliano Allegri may have swooped for Patrice Evra and Alvaro Morata but still failed to make a marquee signing in the summer, and could use the winter time to really announce himself to the Old Lady faithful.
Mata’s lack of pace would see him fit seamlessly into Italy’s top-flight, and he could provide the service for which Carlos Tevez, Fernando Llorente and Morata to fire.
His addition would also bolster their hopes of glory on the European front, and it could be the perfect way for him to rejuvenate his career.