The former Spain international, 34, is regarded as a cult hero at Old Trafford following an eight-and-a-half-year spell. He was one of the club’s first signings after the retirement of legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson and made 285 appearances in all competitions.
During that time, Mata won the FA Cup, EFL Cup, Europa League and Community Shield. He’s previously represented Valencia and Chelsea and lifted some of the biggest trophies in the game – including the World Cup, Euros and Champions League.
Yet Mata risks ruining his standing among United supporters if he decides to join Leeds. As reported by Spanish outlet AS, the West Yorkshire side are among several European clubs – including Galatasaray and Besiktas – interested in signing the playmaker.
Leeds are yet to make Mata an offer but it’s believed sporting director Victor Orta has contacted the player’s father to negotiate a deal. These talks are said to be slow but Leeds are confident the transfer is on track and both parties want to resolve the situation.
It’s also unclear what contract Leeds would offer Mata, in terms of length and salary. Jesse Marsch’s side narrowly survived relegation from the Premier League last season, winning 2-1 at Brentford on the final day of the campaign to send rivals Burnley down.
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Leeds and United share a bitter rivalry and few players have left one club for the other. The Red Devils sold Daniel James to Leeds last summer, yet historic transfers involving Eric Cantona, Rio Ferdinand and Alan Smith have not gone down well with supporters.
United’s hopes of signing Kalvin Phillips from Leeds was scuppered due to the player’s affinity with the West Yorkshire club. He instead joined United’s neighbours Manchester City. Leeds also share a rivalry with Chelsea, the other English side Mata has played for.
Mata penned an emotional tribute to United fans on leaving the club earlier this summer. “For you, our supporters, I don’t really find words to describe how grateful I am and how special you have made me feel,” the Spaniard told United’s website.
“I feel very loved and this is something neither me, nor my family, can ever be thankful enough for. Manchester is, and will always be, a massive part of my life, on and off the pitch. I really feel like an adopted Mancunian, living here and understanding what it means to be part of this singular place in the world and its culture is something truly special. I feel I belong here.
“I wish nothing but the best to the club and new manager. I really hope this is the start of a new era, full of great football, trophies and enjoyment for you, our fans. It’s nothing more than you deserve and nothing less than what this football club should be about.
“This is not a goodbye but a ‘see you soon’ as I will keep coming back to Manchester, whenever I can. But, for now, from the bottom of my heart, thank you very much for letting me be a part of your history. I am truly honoured and proud and will always be one of you.”