Arsenal are reportedly considering a surprise approach for Chelsea midfielder Juan Mata.
The Spain international was heavily linked with a move to Manchester United earlier this summer, as part of a potential deal that would see Blues' long-time striker target Wayne Rooney moving in the opposite direction. But the west London club insisted the 25-year-old was not for sale this summer.
However, after Chelsea completed the signing of Anzhi Makhachkala midfielder Willian - after hijacking the move from London rivals Tottenham Hotspur - Mata's place in the club's starting line-up looks to be in jeopardy. And, according to the Mirror, Arsenal are now planning to offer the player an escape route, with the promise of regular first-team football.
The former Valenica star has been a long-time target for Arsene Wenger. The Gunners were close to signing the playmaker before the Blues snapped him up in 2011 and is now keen to try their luck again.
Chelsea already have an overdose of attacking midfielders and wingers in their ranks, with Eden Hazard, Oscar, Kevin de Bruyne, Mata, Andre Schurrle and Victor Moses all competing for the three attacking midfield roles behind the lone striker. The arrival of Willian is expected to force at least one player out of the club, at least on a season-long loan, with Mourinho admitting the possibility.
"If somebody's coming, somebody will leave. The point is not to sell. I want a 22-player squad. If somebody comes, somebody leaves. Do we need to loan? Probably, yes. I don't like to work with big squads. I think 22 is the perfect number to answer to our needs," the Portuguese tactician stressed.
Mata is known to be one of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich's favourite players and was the club's standout performer last season, with 20 goals and 35 assists in all competitions. However, new manager Jose Mourinho is not understood to be very keen on the Real Madrid product.
The Spaniard did not feature prominently in the Blues' pre-season matches, partly due to his involvement in the 2013 Confederations Cup, and was an unused substitute in the club's Premier League season opener against Hull City last week. The former Valencia star was also withdrawn after 65 minutes against Aston Villa on Wednesday.