Why Shaktar Midfielder Willian Should Choose Spurs Over Chelsea
Signing a player called Taison may have been a knockout blow to some - but to Willian, it could pave the way for his dream move to England. Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donestk recently forked out £12.4 million for attacking midfielder Taison. With the Brazilian firmly part of manager Mircea Lucescu’s plans for the rest of season, his fellow countryman Willian will be harbouring thoughts of showing off his samba skills at Stamford Bridge or White Hart Lane.
An almost identical player, Lucescu is unlikely to field the two Brazilians in his starting XI. Chelsea and Tottenham have already declared an interest in him, with the 24-year-old auguring for a transfer to the Premier League since last year. But which club would suit the talented Willian the most?
Certainly not Chelsea, who can already boast a special triumvirate of deep-lying playmakers in Oscar, Eden Hazard and Juan Mata. Willian is not a forward, either, and rarely appeared in a striking role for Shakhtar, and with Demba Ba recently pitching up at Chelsea, interim coach Rafael Benitez is doubtful to be chasing his signature in the current transfer window. Stranger things have happened, however, and Willian caught the Stamford Bridge hierarchy's eye after a superb performance against the Blues in a Champions League game in November.
Tottenham may be a more realistic option - with Willian a known admirer of Andre Villas-Boas. Villas-Boas is definitely short of an attacking midfielder to feed the ball to his usual front two of Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor. Gylfi Sigurdsson has not impressed, while Scott Parker and Sandro should not be considered playmakers. While he plays further up the park, Mousa Dembele doesn’t pitch in with enough goals and Vilas-Boas has left the more attack-minded Clint Dempsey on the bench. In an interview last year, Willian suggested he would could see himself at Liverpool, but with money still an issue at Anfield, Brendan Rodgers would may consider a loan offer - something Shakhtar would not be open to.
Willian’s playing style means he would easily fit in at Tottenham. Similar to Sigurdsson in stature and build, he links up play excellently and would certainly provide plenty of assists, as well as goals. Willian also boasts much creative flair, something which has always been appreciated at White Hart Lane and his outspokenness shouldn’t prove to be a problem in English football, where a "character" is always welcome, unlike in Donetsk where his remarks about wanting to leave the eastern Ukrainian city have not gone down well with his club’s board or supporters.
Adaptability - and the cold weather - would not be a problem for Willian, who was signed by the Ukrainian team in the summer of 2007. Born in Ribeirão Pires, in Sao Paulo state, Willian Borges da Silva came through the youth system at Corinthians. But, after just 41 appearances, he penned a five-year contract with Shakhtar, who paid Corinthians around £14 million. Homesickness, which affects many South Americans plying their trade in the former Soviet Union, wouldn’t be a problem for Willian. Shakhtar already boasted a number of Brazilians in its ranks, including Jádson, who would become, as well as Willian’s mentor, an icon at the club. Of course, he had to become suited to a different, more direct style of play, as is Lucescu’s tactical preference.
Willian helped his club to a Premier League and Ukrainian Cup double in his first season and continued his form for the following four campaigns. By the start of the 2012/2013 season, Willian was among a nine-strong Brazilian contingent at Shakhtar. But, with Alex Teixeira, Eduardo and Douglas Costa all similar type of players, Willian has received fewer call ups to the first team. A move to the Premier League would suit - but then there may be work permit problems. Capped twice by Brazil, Shakhtar are unlikely to let him leave until the end of the season, especially with two crucial Champions League games against Germans Borussia Dortmund. They need a strong squad to compete in the Champions League, as well as aiming to retain their Ukrainian Premier League title.
But don't bet against seeing him arrive on British shores soon.