Newcastle United have emerged as a surprise potential destination for Juan Mata, according to The Sun.
Mata’s Manchester United contract expires this summer, though the club and player are still in talks over a new deal to keep him at Old Trafford.
If that does not materialise, however, The Sun are reporting Rafael Benitez wants his fellow Spaniard to join him at St. James’ Park – providing his own talks over a new deal to stay on as Newcastle manager are concluded successfully.
Benitez has clashed with Newcastle hierarchy over transfer budgets almost constantly since bring the club back into the Premier League in 2017, after the Magpies had been relegated at the end of the 2015-16 season despite the Spaniard taking over with 10 games left.
Since then the former Valencia, Inter Milan, Liverpool, and Real Madrid manager has kept Newcastle in the top flight despite working with a shoestring budget under owner Mike Ashley’s stewardship.
Signing Mata, who has also been linked with Barcelona, would be a huge coup for the club – almost as big as getting Benitez himself.
The Spanish playmaker is a Real Madrid academy graduate who became one of his country’s highest-rated players while at Valencia, and after joining Chelsea in 2011, he won the Champions League in his first season at the club. He was the Blues’ player of the season for two straight seasons from 2011 to 2013, before leaving in the 2013-14 season.
Mata was a club-record signing for Man United when he joined in January 2014, and has since made over 200 appearances for the Red Devils, on occasion captaining the side.
This season he joined a select group of players who have scored 50 goals and tallied 50 assists in the Premier League, a feat managed by just 27 players before him.
He is well-regarded as a senior member of the United side, and the club would like to keep him even if they cannot guarantee him a regular starting place in a summer where they have several targets for the right-wing berth Mata usually occupies.