Pep Guardiola has admitted he once tried to sign current Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata while in charge of Barcelona.
The Spaniard made his name at Valencia having come through the academy at Real Madrid. Mata then moved to England in 2011 with Chelsea, spending two-and-a-half years with the Blues before signing for Man United under David Moyes’ stewardship.
Could Mata have joined Barcelona? Five key things to know…
- Juan Mata came through the academy at Real Madrid before joining Valencia as a 19-year-old.
- The Spaniard has since represented Chelsea and Manchester United, while also earning 41 international caps.
- But Mata’s career could have been so much different.
- Pep Guardiola has admitted he wanted to sign Mata while in charge of Barcelona.
- However, he could not make the move due to the number of midfielders already at the Camp Nou.
Since moving to Old Trafford, Mata has endeared himself to fans for his key performances in big matches, proving himself a reliable midfield option with the club going through a rough period post-Sir Alex Ferguson.
However, it appears Mata’s time at United is running out with the Spaniard’s contract up this summer and a new deal seeming unlikely.
Still capable of playing at the top level at 30, Mata is bound to attract interest across Europe with the likes of Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain reportedly interested.
And current Manchester City manager Guardiola has admitted he tried to take Mata to the Nou Camp while in charge of Barcelona.
“He’s an exceptional player,” he told reporters.
“One of the players I like the most – not love because I don’t know him well, but one of the players I like the most.
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“From Valencia, always in Barcelona, we took an eye to try to bring him to Barcelona, but the problem was we had a lot of midfield players.
“That was a little bit the problem, but he is an incredible player. He played really well at Chelsea and United.”
Mata was part of the Chelsea team that beat Barcelona in 2012 en route to winning the Champions League and brought Guardiola’s time at the club to an end, with the current Man City boss taking a break at the end of that season.
The Spaniard will be hoping he can play some part in another famous victory over Barcelona, this time with United, as the two face off in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
Is Mata leaving Man Utd?
With Manchester United still fighting for a top-four spot and in the Champions League quarter-finals, Mata will not have had much time to think about his future.
And speaking in January about his career past the end of the season, Mata admitted he remains unsure about what awaits him.
“I don’t know,” he told AS.
“I’ve been in England for a good while, in a league that I’m well accustomed to and where I’ve adapted well, but it’s true that times you miss home, your family, your friends.
“But I don’t know if I’ll return to Spain in the near future.
“I’m calm [about the situation at United]. I’m at the fantastic club that is Manchester United, one of the biggest in the world.
“I have to think about the short term and do well from now on.”