Chelsea swoop for £26m Mata as accent on youth continues

 

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The Independent Online

Chelsea were last night on the brink of sealing a £26m deal for Juan Mata, the 23-year-old Valencia winger who has previously been a long-term target for Arsenal this season.

The deal was understood to have been close to completion last night, for £23.4m and £2.6m in add-ons. The expectation was that there was a club statement imminent from Valencia. Mata is most commonly compared to the former Valencia midfielder David Silva, now at Manchester City, and plays in the three behind the striker. He should sign a five-year contract at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea's spending so far this summer has been with an eye to the future. Oriol Romeu, Romelu Lukaku and Thibault Courtois are aged 19, 18 and 19 respectively. There is nothing new in this. Manchester United and Arsenal have for years bought players of potential because they are cheaper than the finished article, they can then shape the players' game to the club's style and usually make a hefty profit should they wish to sell them on.

The difference is at these clubs the manager is an established long-term figure. No manager has lasted more than four seasons at Chelsea since Dave Sexton left in 1974. The club's purchases suggest either Andre Villas-Boas has tremendous confidence in his own abilities and tenure, or they have been made by someone else.

To judge from the manager's comments yesterday, the latter is the case. "Every decision is a club decision, not just the manager," he said. "It's a group decision between the owner [Roman Abramovich or his intermediary, chief executive Ron Gourlay], with Michael Emenalo [technical director] and the scouting network.

"Signing Courtois, Lukaku and Oriol was a statement for the future – that we are aware of the best talent. It is a club decision. We all agreed it would make sense for our future whoever is in the position [of manager].

"Courtois [who is on a season-long loan to Atletico Madrid and so unable to deputise for the injured Petr Cech against West Bromwich Albion today] was the Belgian champion and one of the best goalkeepers in the Belgian league. Lukaku has broken through so early into the Anderlecht XI, plus he has European experiences with them and the price was sensible."

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