Gunners wary of Mata hijack
Published 29/07/2011 | 05:00
Arsenal fear that their move for the Valencia midfielder Juan Mata could yet be hijacked by Manchester City, with the FA Cup winners taking a keen interest in the player after failing to land either Samir Nasri or Ashley Young.
Worryingly for Arsenal, City have identified Mata, the star of Spain's European U-21 Championship-winning team this summer, as fitting the profile of versatile attacking midfielder they had hoped to sign.
City have looked at both Nasri and Young, who joined Manchester United, as well as Mata. The 23-year-old can operate in any position across the three behind the striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation, which is one of the areas City have been looking to strengthen.
If it comes down to a question of the highest offer for the player then it would be difficult to see City losing out.
Mata would represent a considerable investment, given his release clause of around £17.5m, which is more than Arsenal paid for Juan Antonio Reyes -- who at £17m is thought to be their most expensive signing, although it has never been verified by the club.
While Mata is thought to be happy to move to Arsenal, the Gunners are aware of City's interest and are taking nothing for granted. City's chances of signing Nasri for this summer at least have now gone, barring a complete change of heart from Arsene Wenger, and like many of the big clubs in Europe they have looked at Mata.
Even with the signings of Sergio Aguero, Gael Clichy and Stefan Savic already this summer, City still have room to spare in their 25-man Premier League squad once the likes of Craig Bellamy, Emmanuel Adebayor and Wayne Bridge are discounted -- none of those three has even made the squad for this weekend's friendlies.
City should comfortably fulfil the stipulation for eight home-grown players, even with the likely departure of Shaun Wright-Phillips, as Clichy counts as home-grown.
As for Arsenal, the putative transfer of Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona would appear to have stalled for the time being, while striker Nicklas Bendtner was last night looking at a fresh start away from the Emirates as he closed on a £9m move to Sporting Lisbon. (© Independent News Service)