Atletico Madrid look set to challenge Valencia for the signing of Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata as doubts continue to circulate over the Spaniard's future at Old Trafford, reports suggest.
According to the latest speculation from the Daily Mail, Valencia are in pole position to bring Mata back to the Mestalla next summer but will face a battle with reigning La Liga champions Atletico for his services.
The same source further suggests that Serie A title rivals Juventus and AS Roma still retain an interest in the 26-year-old who is apparently now seen as expendable following a period of significant change at Manchester United.
The news that Van Gaal appears to view Mata as disposable is somewhat of a surprise given the affable playmaker's rather impressive goal record.
Since joining the Red Devils from Premier League rivals Chelsea in January, he has scored eight top-flight goals in 20 matches and generally impressed with the caliber of his performances.
However, the recent arrivals of Radamel Falcao and Angel Di Maria - secured towards the latter stages of the most recent transfer window - has only served to increase competition for places under Van Gaal with Robin van Persie and captain Wayne Rooney also jostling for starting berths.
Given that £30 million-rated Mata previously spent four years at Valencia prior to joining Chelsea, one would presume that he still holds an affection for the club and that could give them a crucial edge in the event that the player is offloaded by Manchester United at the end of the season.
Los Che - who replaced manager Juan Antonio Pizzi with Nuno Espírito Santo in June - have enjoyed a strong start to the new domestic campaign and currently sit second in La Liga with 17 points from their opening seven games.
Atletico are the reigning Spanish champions, of course, although Diego Simeone's side succumbed to a 3-1 defeat to transfer rivals Valencia on Saturday evening.
Serie A move?
Despite Serie A's reputation having taken somewhat of a hit in recent years when compared to the Premier League and indeed the Bundesliga, a move to Italy could potentially appeal to Mata.
Juventus - whose current side includes the likes of Arturo Vidal and French starlet Paul Pogba - have been incredibly strong in recent seasons and Roma appear to be gearing up to provide a significant test to their championship credentials in the coming months.
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