LONDON: Manchester United have had a bid, believed to be in the region of £37m, accepted by Chelsea for Spanish midfielder Juan Mata. The 25-year-old was expected to undergo a medical today before completing a move to the Premier League champions.
Chelsea have already replaced him by signing Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah from Swiss club Basel.
Mata is expected to sign a four-and-a-half year deal at Old Trafford. The Spain international, who has won 32 caps, said goodbye to team-mates and staff at Chelsea’s Cobham training ground on Wednesday.
United continue to deny having made a bid for the playmaker, but it is understood they have made an offer through intermediaries working on the deal.
Manager David Moyes declined to answer questions on a Mata move after his side’s League Cup semi-final defeat by Sunderland.
Journaists were informed before the post-match conference that Moyes would be answering questions on the game only and when asked afterwards about Mata, the Scot said simply: “We are not saying anything.”
Should the deal go through it would break United’s previous record transfer – the £30.75m they paid Spurs for Dimitar Berbatov in September 2008.
Mata has been linked with a move away from Stamford Bridge after struggling to hold down a regular starting place under Jose Mourinho.
On Tuesday, Chelsea insisted that Mata, who had been voted the club’s player of the year two seasons in a row, was not for sale.
But the player, who was part of the Spain squad which won the World Cup in 2010 and European Championship in 2012, has been substituted in nine of his 13 Premier League appearances for the Blues this season, prompting speculation other clubs could bid for him in the January transfer window.
United have made no secret of their plans to rebuild their team under Moyes and are prepared to pay a premium for top players if it means securing them now rather than waiting until the summer.
“A lot of the work we are doing now is in preparation for the summer,” Moyes told United’s matchday programme ahead of their League Cup semi-final second-leg against Sunderland on Wednesday.
“If we can do any business now then we will certainly try to do it, but I will not compromise the standards required for a player that can come into this club and help improve it.”
Chelsea boss Mourinho, 50, said last week that while he understood it was “hard” for Mata to sit on the bench, the Spaniard still had a “big role” to play at the club.
The Portuguese has trusted Eden Hazard, Oscar and summer signing Willian in attacking roles this season and while his relationship with Mata is healthy, he has conceded Chelsea’s system does not suit the player.
Chelsea paid £23.5m to sign Mata from Valencia in 2011. The former Real Madrid youth player had impressed during four seasons with the Spanish club and began life in England by scoring 13 goals in his debut season as Chelsea won the FA Cup and Champions League.
He followed it up with 20 goals in the 2012-13 season as Chelsea lifted the Europa League under Rafael Benitez but, since Mourinho returned for his second spell at the club, Mata has seen his playing time limited.
He was substituted 53 minutes into the Blues’ 3-0 win at Southampton on New Year’s Day, his last appearance, and was visibly frustrated when taking his place on the bench as Mourinho stood in his technical area.
Chelsea already have his potential replacement in place in Salah from Basel. Salah, 21, could make his debut in Sunday’s FA Cup fourth round tie at home to Stoke.
Salah becomes Chelsea’s third signing of the winter transfer window, following Bertrand Traore and Nemanja Matic in moves funded by the sale of Kevin De Bruyne and the imminent move of Mata, a fans’ favourite and Chelsea’s player of the year in each of the last two seasons.
Mourinho was impressed by Salah performance as Chelsea twice lost to Basel in the Champions League group stage.
Salah scored in three of the Swiss side’s four recent meetings with Chelsea: a goal in each of this season’s Group E Champions League wins and also netting in the second leg of last term’s Europa League semi-final.
Salah was also being courted by Liverpool, who earlier on Thursday conceded defeat in their pursuit of the winger.
The move is reminiscent of the deal for Willian, who had already completed a medical at Tottenham before signing for Chelsea last August.
Prior to De Bruyne’s departure to Wolfsburg earlier this month, Mourinho insisted there was no need for a like-for-like replacement for the Belgian.
Salah is another option in the attacking midfield roles, but the pace and width he offers suggests Mourinho seems him as an alternative to Mata, rather than a direct replacement.
Another player who appears set to join Mata in departing Stamford Bridge is midfielder Michael Essien, with a switch to Milan possible.