MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Manchester United smashed the club's transfer record to sign Juan Mata from Chelsea for 37.1 million pounds ($61.2 million) on Saturday, giving the beleaguered English Premier League champions a major lift.
The Spain midfielder was deemed surplus to requirements at Chelsea after losing his place in the team since Jose Mourinho's return as manager last summer.
The move, which is the most high-profile yet in Europe's January transfer window, will guarantee Mata is back playing regular football ahead of the World Cup in Brazil. It is also a statement of intent from United amid a tough period for new manager David Moyes, whose team is seventh in the Premier League and struggling to qualify for the lucrative Champions League.
"United is the perfect place for me and I am excited at the chance I have to be part of the next phase in the club's history," said the 25-year-old Mata, who was flown to Manchester by helicopter on Saturday so he could undergo his medical examination and agree on personal terms.
"Chelsea is a top club and I have many friends there but you cannot turn down the chance to join Manchester United."
Mata was Chelsea's player of the year for the last two seasons but has spent most of the 2013-14 campaign on the substitutes' bench, with Mourinho deciding to make Brazil international Oscar his No. 1 playmaker.
Mourinho granted Mata's request to leave Stamford Bridge in light of United's interest and having already found a virtual replacement in Egypt winger Mohamed Salah, who is close to joining from Swiss team Basel.
"I and everyone at Chelsea have massive respect for Juan and his big talent, and when he told us of his wish to move on because he wanted to play more, we did not want to deny him this opportunity," Mourinho said.
"We want him to be successful in his career and as well as that, this transfer makes huge financial sense to us at Chelsea."