x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Football transfer round-up: United waiting for Mata arrival

Record buy thrills followers at Old Trafford but worries rivals who predict Premier League champions will be rejuvenated. In other news, Pogba a PSG target.

The signing of Juan Mata, the Spanish playmaker, is likely to address Manchester United’s woes in the midfield, with the Premier League champions having lacked a creative force throughout the 2013/14 season. Carl Court / AFP
The signing of Juan Mata, the Spanish playmaker, is likely to address Manchester United’s woes in the midfield, with the Premier League champions having lacked a creative force throughout the 2013/14 season. Carl Court / AFP

Manchester United’s fans, eager to see the arrival of Juan Mata, had to wait overnight for the announcement of the Chelsea’s midfielder’s move to Old Trafford, which was deferred until Friday.

Mata, who had fallen out of favour with manager Jose Mourinho at Stamford Bridge, was scheduled to arrive on Thursday morning for a medical exam. That was moved back to evening, even as Manchester United fans and former players expressed hope that the move, reportedly worth £37 million (Dh224m), will prove the catalyst to a dismal season thus far.

“He is a fantastic signing,” said former United defender Gary Pallister. “He has great skill, great imagination, flair and goalscoring ability. We are delighted to get hold of him.”

At a time when questions are being asked about the attractiveness of the football United have played under first-year manager David Moyes, Mata also brings the kind of approach that guarantees entertainment, according to Pallister.

“He is the kind of player Manchester United fans want to see,” said Pallister, who won four Premier League titles and three FA Cups during his nine-year stint at Old Trafford. “He has great imagination and can get people off their seats in anticipation of the things he can do with a football.”

That is exactly what concerns Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, as he questioned Chelsea’s decision. The deal could breathe life into United, a move Wenger is struggling to understand.

“I’m surprised Mata is allowed to go because he is a great player,” he said. “And Chelsea are strengthening a direct opponent.

“It opens up transfer market, Chelsea don’t play United again. They could have sold him last week, but it opens at least the opportunity [to question] the dates of this transfer window.

“Some teams have already played twice against one opponent and some others not. I think if you want to respect the fairness for everybody exactly the same, that should not happen.

“I just think you would want that everybody is on the same level. Chelsea do not make the rules, but maybe the rules should be a bit more adapted to more fairness.”

Meanwhile, United’s on-field problems were compounded on Thursday when they dropped out of the top three of the world’s top-earning clubs for the first time.

United fell to fourth in the Deloitte Football Money League behind leaders Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich based on income during the 2012/13 season.

International financial services firm Deloitte have been compiling the table since 1997, and for the first eight years United were the biggest-earning club in the world.

But Deloitte forecast United, owned by the US-based Glazer family, would reclaim third place from Bayern next year, although a failure to qualify for the lucrative Champions League could have a damaging effect on the club’s finances.

“It is the first time Manchester United have dropped out of the top three, but Bayern had an exceptional year,” Dan Jones of Deloitte’s sports business group said.

“Next year, United will have the Chevrolet deal, plus other new commercial deals in their figures, and the new Premier League TV deal, so we are confident they will be back in the top three.”

Egyptian Salah for the Bridge

Chelsea have agreed to a deal for playmaker Mohamed Salah from Swiss club Basel, the club said on Thursday.

The move is subject to the Egyptian international agreeing to personal terms and completing a medical examination, Chelsea’s website said. The 21-year-old attacking midfielder scored against Chelsea for Basel both home and away in the Champions League group stages this season.

Chelsea’s Premier League rivals Liverpool had been strongly linked with a move for the player, according to British media reports.

PSG in hot pursuit of Pogba

Paris Saint-Germain are prepared to raise the ante in a bid to sign Paul Pogba, by offering the Serie A champions €70 million (Dh350.7m) for the sought-after Juventus midfielder, according to a report on Thursday.

Pogba joined the Italian giants at the start of last season on a free transfer from Manchester United and has blossomed into one of the league’s most creative and effective midfielders both in attack and defence.

Now PSG, according to a report in La Gazzetta dello Sport, have offered Juve €70m in a bid to stave off interest from Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Real Madrid.

The report did not cite club officials but claims Juve president Beppe Marotta has recently held preliminary talks with Bayern Munich. It said Chelsea and Real had also “expressed interest” in the player.

The report also said Juventus were “determined to hold onto Pogba amid what is an unprecedented auction”.

Pogba has a contract with Juventus until the summer of 2017, although reports regularly speculate that he could be lured elsewhere if the price is right.

Antonio Conte, the Juve coach, has complained that cash-strapped Italian clubs have no chance of rising to the top of the Champions League, because they simply cannot compete financially with the likes of Madrid, Chelsea and Bayern.

With Pogba’s stock rising – he was valued at around €45m in October, according to the Gazzetta report – the Italian club would be in line to reap rich dividends from any sale of the Frenchman.

Pogba’s agent, Mino Raiola, recently compared him to a fine painting. “Pogba is the best player of his age in the world, and he’s only going to get better,” he said.

“He’s like a Monet. The value is there, wherever he plays, it doesn’t matter. If [Gareth] Bale is worth €100m Paul is worth €200m.”

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