Over the weekend, ESPN UK journalist Mark Ogden said he believed Manchester United veteran Juan Mata could be enticed by an MLS adventure, and right on cue we're here with some ideas about his best possible fits on our side of the pond.
Of course, the current top title contenders are already well-stocked, so Mata probably won't be able to catch on with any of those at this time. Perhaps it's just as well, because a player well-known as a good squad citizen and leader might see his leadership skills better utilized by a club trying to build something new.
Yes, Mata turned 32 on Tuesday, but returns likely won't diminish much so soon. His game has always relied on skill, vision and decision making over athletic prowess, and those things are still in full effect. He has plenty left to give to any MLS suitor in search of a positive midfield conductor.
Which clubs most need an attack ideas man that can also mentor? We've got a handful of ideas.
The Orange and Blue addressed many of their 2019 weaknesses with a productive offseason. The added a couple of strong move finishers, a deep-lying distributor and some back line help. What they still lack is a creative player to take the attack keys. Mata would also dramatically increase the Nippert Stadium gang's ability to hold possession, which could take heat off their too often overworked defense.
The Impact midfield and attack has plenty of interesting players with unique individual abilities. It can be argued that what Thierry Henry lacks is a field maestro that can get everyone on the same page. There is one hitch to consider, however: In order to sign Mata, Montreal would need to acquire or clear an international roster slot.
You might consider it a bit on the nose to suggest some fresh creativity for a team that has been held to one set piece goal through two games, but here we are. Hany Mukhtar has been acting as the central playmaker, but his game is just as suited to the wing so he can easily slide to the right. Between the German and Nashville's deep midfield crew, there's plenty of defensive work rate on hand to reduce Mata's load.
Like Cincinnati, the Whitecaps can buy down a DP to clear room for Mata. Like Montreal, they could use a clever attack orchestrator to help often disconnected talents coalesce. And like all three teams listed above, Vancouver is eager for the winning culture infusion. They also have a roster teeming with young players in need of a guiding light. The Spaniard would provide both of these benefits in spades.