Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata has confirmed his intention to one day return to Real Oviedo, the Spanish club where he spent five years as a highly rated youth team prospect before moving to Real Madrid in 2003.
The 27-year-old never actually made a senior appearance at Estadio Carlos Tartiere but he credits Los Azules for having a major impact on his development during the formative stages of his professional football career, and outlined his desire to say thank you by moving back there before he retires.
Mata's ambition came to light after speaking to reporters following Oviedo's successful promotion back to the second tier of Spanish football at the weekend, following a play-off victory over Cadiz.
Article continues below
The Red Devils playmaker could not hide his delight after Sergio Egea's side secured a route back to the Segunda Division in an interview with Radio Marca Asturias.
“I was very happy,” the Spain international said. “I imagine playing again with Real Oviedo. One always thinks; hopefully we can all meet there.”
Article continues below
However, Manchester United supporters need not worry as Mata still has unfinished business at Old Trafford, and is expected to play an important role in Louis van Gaal's first-team squad again next season.
The former Valencia man made a modest start to life at the Theatre of Dreams after joining from Chelsea in January 2014, but has shown glimpses of the kind of form that prompted former manager David Moyes to splash what was then a club-record £37.1 million on his signature last year.
Jose Mourinho's decision to sell the Spaniard - and to a direct Premier League rival - came as a massive surprise to many, particularly when you consider the positive impact he'd made during his two-and-a-half years at Stamford Bridge.
Blues fans could be forgiven for secretly hoping that Mata has aspirations of moving back to west London again in the future, but the reality is as long as he's performing for Manchester United then there is no way they'll allow him to depart.
He's been instrumental in the Red Devils' resurgence under the veteran Dutch coach's tutelage, contributing ten goals and four assists during the 2014/15 campaign.
The second goal he scored against Liverpool at Anfield to secure an important victory for Van Gaal's men was probably his stand-out moment from the past 12 months, and more evidence that when on form, Mata is a world-class talent.
Manchester United fans: How important has Juan Mata been to Louis van Gaal? Do you see him being a first-team regular at Old Trafford next season? Have your say in the comment box below...