According to an ‘exclusive’ from the Sun’s north-east reporter David Coverdale, Rafa Benitez wants to sign soon-to-be free agent Juan Mata this summer.
The story states that Benitez sees the 31-year-old as a player whose “creativity, personality and experience” could be ‘perfect’ for the club – however he faces a battle to convince Mike Ashley.
Mata played under Benitez at Chelsea during the 2012/13 season – a year that saw him bag a stunning 19 goals and 35 assists in 64 appearances.
Here’s a snippet from David Coverdale’s piece for the Sun, claiming that Rafa is hoping to persuade Ashley to go against club policy and sign the Spanish playmaker on a free:
‘RAFA BENITEZ wants to join the race for Juan Mata — if he stays on as Newcastle boss.
‘Mata, 31, is out of contract at Manchester United and could leave on a free this summer.
‘SunSport understands Benitez is keen on a reunion with his former Chelsea playmaker. But he would need Toon chiefs to go against club policy to sign him.
‘Benitez remains in negotiations over a new contract at Newcastle having met owner Mike Ashley last Thursday.
‘One sticking point in talks has been their recruitment strategy and wage structure.
‘Benitez has asked the club to be more open-minded about signing players older than 26 and to start paying more competitive salaries.
‘So any pursuit of Mata, who earns around £140,000 a week at Old Trafford, would be an early test of whether or not Benitez has got his own way.
‘Benitez worked with fellow Spaniard Mata when he managed Chelsea during the 2012-13 season and thinks his creativity, personality and experience could be perfect for Newcastle.‘
A £16.5m deal for a proven Rondon (who’s 2 years younger) would be one thing – and something Ashley must sanction no matter what his transfer blue print allows – but allowing a move for an ageing Juan Mata just seems so unlikely to me.
Yes he’s available on a free, with his contract at Old Trafford expiring this summer, but he’s now 31 and on a reported £140,000 per week at Manchester United.
I’m sure Rafa is interested, with Mata a player he knows well and someone who can bring several traits to the squad that we currently lack, but I struggle to see Mike Ashley agreeing to this one – even if there’s no transfer fee involved.