Juan Mata linked with Athletic Bilbao... but there's one significant problem
Athletic Bilbao are literally the one club Mata won't be joining this summer
Juan Mata might well leave Manchester United this summer. That much we do know.
The Spaniard's contract at United is due to expire at the end of the season, and with nothing to suggest an agreement over an extension is close to being reached, it seems likely he'll be one of several players to be shown the door at Old Trafford before 2019/2020.
Should he leave, some reports have claimed a return to his homeland might make sense for Mata. There's been murmurings of a surprise move to Barcelona, with Atletico Madrid and former club Valencia also said to be interested.
He will definitely not, however, be moving to Athletic Bilbao. Despite what you may have read.
'Athletic are unique. There's no other club, at least not in Europe, that are comparable in terms of ethos and the relationship they have with their fanbase.'
Ahead of @Athletic_en vs Barcelona tonight, read this, from @SmnLlyd5 https://t.co/c5SEfhcXLe
— FootballJOE (@FootballJOE) February 10, 2019
A report by The Mirror claimed Athletic were 'desperate' to land the 31-year-old ahead of next season. But as many on Twitter swiftly pointed out, the club's policy of only fielding Basque players (and the fact that Mata is very definitely not Basque) means that, in actual fact, they are the one club he definitely won't be signing for.
Athletic Bilbao are interested in signing Mata, according to this exclusive. Would be a great deal if they can get it done, apart from the fact he is in no way, shape or form Basque, which might scupper it https://t.co/dlutz6tTc1
— Will Unwin (@Will_Unwin) May 5, 2019
— Sid Lowe (@sidlowe) May 5, 2019
— James Dodd (@JamesDoddFOX) May 5, 2019
The report has since been amended, and now claims Brighton is another possible destination for the former Chelsea playmaker.
Mata started for United at Huddersfield Town on Saturday, where a lacklustre display saw them draw with the already relegated side, 1-1.
This result, coupled with Chelsea's 3-0 win over Watford at Stamford Bridge, means United will miss out on qualifying for next season's Champions League irrespective of how they get on in their final match of the season against Cardiff City next weekend.