Atletico in bid to hijack United's move for Mata
Atletico Madrid are hoping to hijack Manchester United's attempts to sign Juan Mata by offering David Moyes first option on Diego Costa and Brazilian full-back Filipe Luis if he withdraws from the race for the Chelsea midfielder.
United have been given encouragement that a £37m bid for Mata will be accepted by Chelsea before the end of the week, which now just requires a final seal of approval from Jose Mourinho, who has, thus far, agreed that the player can go.
But with Atletico determined to bolster their push for the Spanish title by adding Mata to Diego Simeone's squad, the Madrid outfit are prepared to hand United the chance to secure options on striker Costa and Luis, the £18m-rated left-back who has been scouted by Moyes' staff in recent weeks.
The arrival of Costa would open the door for Wayne Rooney's exit from Old Trafford, with Real Madrid expected to enter the race to sign the England striker in the summer.
Real believe that Rooney can be prised away from the Premier League champions after identifying the England forward as more attainable than their first-choice target Sergio Aguero.
Rooney's failure to commit his future to United, and his relish at the prospect of playing again with Cristiano Ronaldo, have given Real confidence that a deal can be struck.
Manchester City forward Aguero remains Real's No 1 target, having been courted by the club since his prolific spell with Atletico, but neither City nor the Argentinian have offered any encouragement that a deal can be done.
While Mata is keen to move to Old Trafford, the prospect of a return to Spain in the build-up to the World Cup this summer is also appealing to the former Valencia player.
United have identified a left-back and a central midfielder as their twin priorities during the January transfer window, but Moyes ruled out a move for Real Madrid's Fabio Coentrao and has abandoned efforts to sign Everton's Leighton Baines, while Southampton teenager Luke Shaw is deemed to be too expensive at his current £30m valuation.
With Chelsea monitoring Costa as a potential solution to their search for a centre-forward, a deal with Atletico could also appeal to Mourinho, whose long-term interest in the striker could be used as leverage in any agreement to offload Mata to the Vicente Calderon.
Atletico want to take Mata on loan with an option to buy the 25-year-old at the end of the season, and sending the player back to Spain would be preferable to Mourinho, particularly if Chelsea can secure first option on striker Costa in return.
Despite relegating him behind Oscar and leaving him on the bench for long spells, Mourinho has claimed he does not want to sell Mata this month.
Mata's father, Juan Snr, acts as his agent and had been planning to try to secure a move to Barcelona for his son at the end of the season.
But United's interest is likely to prompt a rethink, particularly with this summer's World Cup fast approaching. (© Daily Telegraph, London)