Reports claim Chelsea tabled the worst swap deal in the history of football by offering one of Juan Mata or David Luiz – plus cash – for Wayne Rooney.
Although Chelsea have since issued an official statement to deny this is the case, those initial reports sparked quite a debate over the relative merits of the players.
As with United’s initial bid for Fabregas earlier this week, let’s break down exactly why this rumoured proposal is, frankly, even more bonkers than Barcelona's ill-advised spend of 46m euros plus Samuel Eto'o for Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
It makes no football sense
Since Jose Mourinho returned to Chelsea there has been a widespread theory among the British press that Mata and Luiz do not 'fit' into the Portuguese's tactical masterplan. Mata is not physical or hard-working enough for Mou, goes the theory, and Luiz is too flamboyant for a coach who likes his defenders cynical, aggressive and completely focused on the dark art of limiting creativity.
However, Mourinho is a big fan of statistics. And the statistics from last season show Mata to have been incredibly effective, creating a whopping 91 chances in the Premier League alone, which puts him fifth overall but comfortably top in terms of minutes per opportunity due to Rafael Benitez's rotation policy. He also topped the assists charts with 12 in the league, and an incredible 28 in all competitions.
Additionally, all the evidence points to Mata being indispensable to Chelsea. He has been their player of the year in both his seasons at the club, and has publicly insisted that both he and Chelsea want to continue their relationship.
Luiz, meanwhile, saw his stock rise greatly after proving himself as an excellent holding midfielder, while cutting out the errors when featuring as a centre-half. His excellent work for Brazil during the Confederations Cup would surely have shown Mourinho that he can work with this player, and has interested the likes of Barcelona.
It makes no economic sense
Mata alone is worth more than Rooney. The Spaniard is widely regarded as being one of the best players in the Premier League, and having over-delivered following his move from Valencia.
Rooney, meanwhile, has seen his career stall as fitness, form, behaviour and focus have all been questioned. Rooney, 27 and apparently past his physical peak, is worth approximately £20m in pure football terms, and possibly an extra £10m due to his marketability. Mata joined Chelsea for £23.5m two years ago, has improved, is 25 and is a consummate professional. He is arguably worth £40m+.
Luiz, meanwhile, is a defender, so however highly one rates him he will be worth less than Mata. Again though, he is not worth £10m less than Rooney.
However we decipher Mourinho's intentions with both Mata and Rooney, this type of offer seems highly unlikely. Roman Abramovich of course has a history of throwing cash about, but the numbers simply do not add up for a Mata-Rooney swap, and certainly not with Chelsea offering additional cash.
A Luiz-Rooney swap, however, could be justified economically, although exchanging a player whose career is on an upward trajectory for one who appears to be on a negative gradient seems unusual in football terms.
One thing we have not considered is the provenance of such a story.
Manchester United apparently leaked details of their strange offer for Cesc Fabregas on Monday, and there are various theories as to their motivation. There is nothing to suggest this report is not mischief making – from Chelsea or United, who could be annoyed with Mourinho's open courting of Rooney and seeking to destabilise Mata, who would solve their creativity problems in one fell swoop.
Certainly a Mata-Rooney swap would benefit United more than Chelsea. If such a transfer is indeed an option, Moyes would do well to gobble it up and send the likes of Nani and Ashley Young down south for good measure.
Do you think Chelsea would be insane to swap Juan Mata for Wayne Rooney? Would David Luiz be a more reasonable bait for United? Have your say below.