The queue of potential suitors grows ever longer as Juan Mata continues to be held hostage to the tactical scruples of Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, but while PSG, Tottenham, Arsenal and Napoli are all appealing destinations, none rival Atletico Madrid as a fit for the wee maestro.
Rumours of Chelsea’s amenability to the idea of selling Mata were dismissed as guttersnipe Spanish media tittle-tattling by Mourinho back in the summer.
It was such assertions that made Atletico Madrid’s loan bid for the 25-year-old even more outlandish than a cheeky borrow of a Europa League-winning club’s two-time player of the year would normally seem at the time.
Nonetheless the midfielder has had far more time to discuss tactical observations with Mark Schwarzer than he would like to this season and Atletico are an appealing punt at 9/1 to be his employers on the fourth of January.
Much like many of their Mata love-rivals Atleti have a fine compliment of attacking midfield talent at the Vicente Calderon.
However, the fact that they were investigating a move for the 29-cap international and didn’t bring anyone else in when they failed to land him might suggest coach Diego Simeone wanted Mata and Mata alone.
Only fledgling Spanish international Koke, who has started the season in wonderful form, could have any kind of claim to getting on the teamsheet ahead of the former Valencia ace.
In a World Cup season the prospect of regular games could prove a big sway for the Stamford Bridge hero and playing in his native land would mean that he could aggressively prove his worth to Vicente Del Bosque in direct confrontations with his international teammates.
At Tottenham and Arsenal there would be far more competition for places in attacking midfield and squad rotation would be sure to see his game time take a bigger hit than it would do in Madrid.
Signing for Los Rojiblancos would see Mata join a team on the up, after Atleti finished 10 points best of the rest in La Liga last term and grabbed a Copa del Rey for the trophy cabinet.
A strong start to the campaign has them behind Barcelona by virtue of scoring two goals fewer than the champions, with a 100 per cent record after five games and given their season-on-season progression under Simeone (whisper it) they could be genuine title contenders this season.