Atletico Madrid keen to sign Juan Mata in January

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Spanish champions Atletico Madrid are reportedly keen to sign Manchester United playmaker Juan Mata in January, but will need to sell before they can finance a deal for the former Valencia and Chelsea star.

Diego Simeone's side - despite offloading the likes of Diego Costa and Filipe Luis in the summer - have already exceeded the salary cap marked by the LFP, according to Mundo Deportivo, and will not be able to put together a big-money package to sign Mata unless they offload key personnel first.

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Atletico will need to sell first

The report states that Raul Jimenez or Cristian Rodriguez could depart the Vicente Calderon in order to make way for Mata, although Atletico are also keen to secure the services of Tottenham striker Roberto Soldado, who has endured a disastrous spell in England since arriving from Valencia last summer.

Atletico spent big money on striker Mario Mandzukic and attacking winger Antoine Griezmann - from Bayern Munich and Real Sociedad, respectively - but the pair are still adjusting to life at the Vicente Calderon.

Atleti have been scraping narrow victories at the start of this season and have, largely, failed to convince - other than in their fine 2-1 win over Real Madrid at the Bernabeu earlier this month.

Would Mata and Soldado suit Atletico?

Whether Mata or Soldado would suit Simeone's famed high-pressing system, however, is up for debate.

Soldado's mobility has been criticised since his arrival in England, while Mata was allowed to leave Chelsea by Jose Mourinho back in January for his supposed lack of work ethic.

Mata set for Old Trafford frustration

The diminutive attacking midfielder now finds himself in another difficult situation at Old Trafford, less than ten months after his £37.1 million move to the Red Devils.

Louis van Gaal opted to leave Mata out of his starting line-up against Leicester City on Sunday - even though he had netted eight goals in his last ten Premier League matches - in favour of deploying Wayne Rooney behind Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao.

Although Van Persie scored and both Rooney and Falcao grabbed assists, the general consensus was that the system failed. But Mata could still be the one to miss out again this weekend against West Ham.

Will a return to Spain appeal?

Should Van Gaal continue to leave Mata on the bench between now and the New Year, a return to Spain may appeal to the 26-year-old.

The former Real Madrid B player, who currently earns £140,000-a-week with the Red Devils, enjoyed a superb four-year spell with Valencia before securing a move to Chelsea.

And although he will be reluctant to leave Old Trafford now, the situation could change over the next few months.

Soldado, on the other hand, is expected to be far more open to the idea of a potential return to La Liga.

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