Manchester United offered Juan Mata a passage out of Chelsea, one of a few the Spaniard would have had to take if he was to get his season back on track and salvage a place in Spain’s World Cup squad.
United were an option, a very good option alongside PSG, Atletico Madrid (perhaps more short term) and whoever else Jose Mourinho and Chelsea were happy to negotiate with. But Mata chose United for the club that it is, what its standing is in English football, and in spite of the difficulties faced under David Moyes.
It’s hard to believe that players look to managers as one of the deciding factors for not wanting to join a club. Of course, it works the other way around quite often. Cesc Fabregas, for obvious reasons, went back to Barcelona to link up with Pep Guardiola. Mario Goetze did the same with the current Bayern manager, and Mesut Ozil spoke of Arsene Wenger’s talents of persuasion following his move to Arsenal last summer.
More often than not, players prioritise wages, likelihood of trophies and comfort of family and personal life before tackling the issue of whether they’re going to get on with the manager and what his reputation says about him. That is unless Felix Magath is the manager in question.
PSG will continue to see a steady stream of high-profile talents arrive at the Parc des Princes this summer, as they did last year. Yet it would be hard to imagine Edinson Cavani paid too much attention to the fact that at the time of his signing, PSG were without a manager and director of football Leonardo was clearing his desk for a permanent departure. Nor did Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Thiago Silva kick up a fuss when Laurent Blanc was named manager, an individual who was nowhere near the club’s list of top candidates a month or two prior to his appointment.
United are in a difficult period in their history, but Moyes won’t deflect star players who find themselves making their way towards Old Trafford in the coming months. Football really doesn’t work like that.
Real Madrid and Barcelona have a history of changing managers frequently, so too do a number of Serie A clubs in recent years. Chelsea are famed for their low tolerance of underachievement. But players continue to sign on at these clubs. There’s the prestige and history of a club that players want to attach themselves to, or simply money talks.
The fact that United have already signed Mata, and for big money, should be a sign that world-class players remain very much available to the club. One man, in the space of 12 months, won’t change the perception of one of the world’s biggest football clubs.