Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has revealed that Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata was a transfer target for him during his time at Barcelona.
The Spanish coach managed the Blaugrana for four years between 2008 and 2012, winning an incredible 14 major trophies – including two European Cups and three La Liga titles.
Guardiola crafted arguably the best team in history at the Camp Nou, with the likes of Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta grabbing the plaudits for their outstanding contributions.
One man who might have contributed his own unique brand of quality at the Camp Nou is Juan Mata, who now plies his trade in the Premier League with Manchester United.
According to the Evening Standard, Guardiola tried to sign Mata at Barcelona while he was on the books at Valencia, as he admitted in a press conference on Saturday: “He’s an exceptional player. One of the players I like the most – not love because I don’t know him well, but one of the players I like the most.
“From Valencia, always in Barcelona, we took an eye to try to bring him to Barcelona, but the problem was we had a lot of midfield players.
“That was a little bit the problem, but he is an incredible player. He played really well at Chelsea and United.”
Mata has been linked with a departure from Manchester this summer, upon the expiration of his current contract, with talks over a new deal at Old Trafford hitting a sticking point in recent months.
ES reports that Barcelona are the frontrunners to land the 30-year-old’s signature, despite the fact United have tabled a one-year extension offer with the option to stay for another season beyond that.
The Red Devils are due to face the Spanish giants in the Champions League quarterfinals on Wednesday night and Mata could be granted the opportunity to play against his potential suitors.
As Guardiola recognises, Mata is a unique talent capable of affecting any match with his technical ability and passing range, which is why it is so surprising that United have not yet nailed him down to a renewal.
However, in the event he does stay at Old Trafford, regular playing time will be far from guaranteed, given the fact Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is plotting wholesale changes to his current squad in the summer transfer window.
Perhaps Barca would be the ideal place for Mata to see out the remaining years of his career, while perhaps adding a few more major trophies to his glittering CV in the process.