x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Chelsea close in on Juan Manuel Mata signing

Spanish World Cup winner could help return Fernando Torres to former success.

Valencia's Juan Mata could be heading to Chelsea.
Valencia's Juan Mata could be heading to Chelsea.

Chelsea are on the verge of completing the £24.5 million (Dh147m) transfer of Juan Manuel Mata after owner Roman Abramovich was persuaded that the acquisition of a second Spain World Cup winner would help return Fernando Torres to former success.

Mata, 23, expects to complete his switch to the Premier League by tomorrow. Yesterday, Chelsea were in negotiations with Valencia over the details of the transfer fee. The Spanish side are looking to receive an initial payment of £15.75m, with a further £8.75m to be paid later. Mata is set to double his income at Valencia with a five-year contract.

Unlike Chelsea's other summer signings - Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku, Spain Under 20 midfielder Oriol Romeu and Belgium Under 21 goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois - the forward will go directly into Chelsea's first team.

With the ability to play on either wing or behind a striker, Mata should add the creativity and dynamics Andre Villas-Boas felt was lacking in his squad.

Chelsea's manager has been required to push his new employer into making a signing of Mata's dimension. He is understood to have employed the argument that the recruitment of a fellow national team player would benefit Torres both tactically and psychologically, to persuade Abramovich to finance the deal.

The Russian has been embarrassed by Torres' obvious difficulties at Chelsea since arriving in an English record £50m transfer from Liverpool in January. Torres had scored just once in 19 outings for his new club, and often struggled to make any significant contribution to the team last season.

Rather than question the wisdom of a deadline-day purchase that was completed without conducting a full medical, Abramovich held Carlo Ancelotti responsible for Torres' shortcomings, contributing to the manager's end-of-campaign dismissal. Upon his subsequent appointment, Villas-Boas was told that Torres should be central to his team planning.

Abramovich's decision to commit a further £43m to support his record investment in Torres will probably not be the last attempt to improve the supply line to his star forward.

Villas-Boas has also argued that his squad is short of a central midfielder, asking the club to pursue several targets.

While Luka Modric has been primary among those, concerns that Daniel Levy, the Tottenham Hotspur chairman, would stand true to his commitment not to sell the Croatia international, saw Chelsea make an informal inquiry for Liverpool midfielder Raul Meireles earlier this month.

Though Kenny Dalglish had made Meireles available for sale at an asking price of around £11m, Liverpool did not respond positively to Chelsea's inquiry. They would prefer to sell last season's PFA Fans' Player of the Year overseas, with Galatasaray prominent among Meireles' admirers.

An agent representing Chelsea was also sent to Porto last week to discuss the availability of Joao Moutinho and Alvaro Pereira. He was informed that Porto would not consider offers for Moutinho, whose buyout is a prohibitive €40m (Dh212m), and were looking for £8.75m more than Chelsea's £13m valuation of Uruguay wingback Pereira.

Chelsea's confidence in acquiring Modric has increased since then with Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp talking publicly about cashing in on the unsettled midfielder to fund three new recruits.

Tottenham have been discussing loan deals for Emmanuel Adebayor and Lassana Diarra, though their wages at Manchester City and Real Madrid are significantly beyond the club's £67,000 per week ceiling.

City are discussing subsidising a small percentage of Adebayor's income by retaining the cost of the African's image rights. Tottenham, meanwhile, hope to persuade the player to accept a lower total pay package to play for them.


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