This week will see Arsene Wenger and Kenny Dalglish square off and compete for the signature of Valencia’s exciting attacking prospect, Juan Mata. One of the most-talked about players in world football, the competition for Mata is almost certainly going to draw in other clubs.
Wenger is seeking to instil a cutting-edge to his line-up who were average at too many crucial times last year. A season that promised so much eventually faded to become little more than ritualistic embarrassment for an Arsenal team that has fallen short too often of late.
Mata presents Wenger with such an opportunity. A speedy, skilful attacker who is just as prone to shooting as he is to taking on opponents, the winger is of similar ilk to his Spanish counterpart David Silva, who has made such an impact for Manchester City this season.
Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish is openly in the market for a wide man. It is of paramount importance to his Liverpool team that ammunition is provided for £35m target man, Andy Carroll, and with money seemingly in abundance at Anfield these days, Dalglish will certainly be flexing his muscle as he sees fit.
Valencia will not allow Mata to leave cheaply. The approximate £70m raised from the recent reluctant sales of Silva to City and David Villa to Barcelona, and consecutive third place La Liga finishes will have helped to address a debt that two seasons ago, stood at a staggering £350m.
So Wenger and Dalglish will have to part with at least £20m, more likely £25m, to land the Spanish international. And you have to say, recent transfer history would suggest it is the Liverpool man who is more prepared to do this.
However, having broken into the Spanish international set-up in recent years, and aware of the hype surrounding his name, it is unlikely that Mata would leave Valencia for a team outside of the Champions League, and though Arsenal must qualify, the move would represent as step up from Valencia as opposed to a step down to Liverpool.
Wenger has been curiously quiet during this transfer window, especially when you can consider that his two prize assets, Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, have been the subject of intense transfer speculation. It would be fair to assume that the Frenchman has a trick up his sleeve and Mata could be the ideal man for the job.