Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez has reportedly targeted the signing of Juan Mata, if he stays on Tyneside this summer.
Spanish midfielder Mata looks set to leave Manchester United next month when his contract expires – leaving Old Trafford on a free transfer.
There has been plenty of interest in the 31-year-old midfielder and The Sun report that Benitez has joined the race to sign Mata, whom he managed at Chelsea in 2012-13.
Benitez’s own future at Newcastle is yet to be resolved and the report claims one of the conditions Benitez wants meeting before he signs a new deal is for the club to relax their signings policy.
Mike Ashley, who met Benitez to talk over his future last week, is not keen on signing players over 26 and has strict wage structure – both of which would need to be relaxed for Mata to arrive.
Mata’s current wages are way in excess of £100,000 a week at United and he would have to take a cut on that, but the offer of a two-year contract may be attractive to the Spaniard. While a deal to take Sean Longstaff in the other direction may well be in the offing after Sky Sports and The Telegraph linked the youngster with United.
Recent reports have heavily linked Mata with a return to Spain with Sport claiming he is ready to make a return to the country where he made his name with Valencia, while Barcelona have also been mentioned.
Mata is represented by his father Juan Mata Snr, who Benitez is apparently an associate of, while Mata Snr also represents West Brom striker Salomon Rondon, who was on loan at Newcastle.
Benitez is keen to make that deal permanent for £16.5million, but the Venezuela striker is 29 and Toon chiefs are not keen on investing in the player, who will be 30 in September.