Juan Mata is expected to complete his club record move to Premier League champions Manchester United today.
Although it was widely assumed the Chelsea midfielder would head north for a medical yesterday, Mata was forced to wait for the final details to be thrashed out between the clubs.
United officials remained relaxed about the situation, giving no indication there had been any last-minute hitch that could delay the move.
There were mischievous suggestions Mata aborted his journey in the wake of United’s shattering Capital One Cup semi-final exit to Sunderland, but it is widely assumed the formalities will be concluded today.
That would allow the 25-year-old to train with his new team-mates over the weekend, before being presented to the media next week, possibly ahead of what seems certain to be his debut against Cardiff at Old Trafford on January 28.
Ineligible for the remainder of United’s Champions League campaign, Mata will be tasked with trying to help his new club secure a top-four spot, having dropped six points adrift of Liverpool.
While hopes of retaining their Premier League title have all but disappeared, United could have a significant say in who does win it.
It has not escaped Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger’s attention that Mata will strengthen a United side that have already faced Chelsea twice, but still have matches against Arsenal and Manchester City to play.
“It opens up again questions about the dates of this transfer window,” said Wenger. “Some teams have already played twice against one opponent and some others not.
“If you want to respect the fairness for everybody that should not happen.
“I can understand completely what Chelsea are doing. They could have sold him last week.
“They do not make the rules, but maybe the rules should be adapted a bit more for more fairness.”
As he prepared for Mata’s departure, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho continued his overhaul of the Blues’ squad squad yesterday with the signing of Mohamed Salah from Basle.
The deal for the Egypt international, which is subject to him agreeing personal terms and passing a medical. Provided the finer details of the move are confirmed swiftly, Salah could make his debut in Sunday’s FA Cup fourth-round tie at home to Stoke.
Salah becomes Chelsea’s third signing of the winter transfer window, following Bertrand Traore and Nemanja Matic in moves funded by the sale of Kevin De Bruyne and the imminent move of Mata, a fans’ favourite and Chelsea’s player of the year in each of the last two seasons.
Mourinho was impressed by Salah’s performances as Chelsea twice lost to Basel in the Champions League group stages.
Salah has scored in three of the Swiss side’s four recent meetings with Chelsea: a goal in each of this season’s Group E Champions League wins and also netting in the second leg of last term’s Europa League semi-final.
Salah was also being courted by Liverpool, who earlier yesterday conceded defeat in their pursuit of the winger.