The future of Marseille midfielder Mathieu Valbuena has been up in the air for some time now. After being linked with moves to both Arsenal and most recently Liverpool, the French international spoke candidly during a Live TV interview this weekend and made it known that he would be keen to move away from the Stade Velodrome.
Last summer the 29-year-old's contract was extended by an extra year due to Marseille's qualification to the Champions’ League Group Stage, now his current deal lasts until June 2017, making this summer the perfect time for Marseille to sell the diminutive midfielder.
While making an appearance on French sports channel, beIN Sport, Valbuena was questioned about the teams that were apparently interested during the January transfer window, and it was Spanish side Atletico Madrid that seemed to spark his interest.
“Zenit and Schalke 04 are great teams, but the team I like is Atletico Madrid, because it’s a Spanish club and I have Spanish origins. On top of that, they play very well.”
Valbuena is ready for a new chapter in his career, just short of his 30th birthday; this is his eighth season with Marseille. He has won two Ligue 1 titles and three Coupe de la Ligue trophies, showing his loyalty while other teams have been interested in the past.
The links with Liverpool have been around for a number of years, going back to 2007 when he scored a stunning curling effort as Marseille beat Liverpool 1-0 at Anfield in the Champions League.
Six years ago the signing would have made a lot of sense for the Merseyside club, but now with the likes of Luis Suarez, Jordan Henderson, and most importantly Philippe Coutinho, it looks like Valbuena's chance to play in England has passed.
Although very talented and an excellent playmaker, he wouldn't be more than a gifted squad player in the current Liverpool side, and at 29-years-old, he wants to be playing in the Champions League, not sat on the bench.
The attraction to Atletico makes perfect sense, players like Diego Costa and Koke are being linked with moves away, and Valbuena would be an excellent fit for Diego Simeone's side.
Marseille are likely to miss out on the Champions League places in France, making Valbuena's decision to leave an easier one to swallow for OM fans. Atletico may be his preferred destination, but if Brendan Rodgers showed an interest this summer, and Liverpool finish in the top four, the memory of that great night at Anfield may play a big part in his decision.