Juan Mata has been given the freedom to decide his own Manchester United future by manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as his current contract runs down.
His deal includes an option to extend his stay at Old Trafford for another year until 2022, but the Spaniard has featured only sparingly this season and may feel that at this stage of his career – he turned 33 in April – he needs to make the most of time that is running out.
Here’s a look at six possible clubs that could be a good fit if he does leave United…
Mata is famously not your average footballer when it comes to off-field interests, with a passion for art and culture breaking all the usual stereotypes.
As a city, Florence could be a perfect new adventure, while Fiorentina could be keen for additional quality at a bargain price to take them back into European contention after a few disappointing seasons.
Villarreal seriously benefitted from taking a risk on Santi Cazorla following his exit from Arsenal in 2018 and could enjoy similar upside if they were to open the door to Mata.
On a personal level, the player is already familiar with Spain’s east coast after four years making his name at Valencia between 2007 and 2011. Villarreal is only 40 miles further up the coast.
If it isn’t Villarreal, a return to La Liga could happen should Mata re-join former side Valencia.
Valencia have been very hit and miss since Mata left a decade ago and 2020/21 has been a poor one for a club that is always aiming for European football. It could end up being their lowest La Liga finish in more than 30 years and improving next season is a must.
Arsenal are midway through a crucial squad rebuild and are keen to bring in a number of younger talents to replace ageing players they can no longer afford without a Champions League budget. However, Mata could be a shrewd acquisition on a free transfer to add experience.
It would also mean a return to London, having previously spent two and a half years there during his time with Chelsea.
West Ham have got serious ambitions of consistently challenging for European places and will need depth and experience next season if they are to compete in the Europa League or new Conference League. Mata would certainly tick those boxes.
Hammers boss David Moyes was also the manager who took the Spaniard to Old Trafford.
Lazio were in the market for David Silva last summer and were dismayed to lose out to Real Sociedad, so another opportunity to sign a veteran Spanish playmaker for free this year might be welcomed by the Serie A club.
Lazio will be in the Europa League next season and also want to get back into the Champions League.