As the wheels begin to come off from the oligarch’s utopia that is Anzhi Makhachkala, Europe’s top clubs have started circling around some of the Russian outfit’s stars as the chance of securing top players for a relatively cut-price has become increasingly concrete in recent weeks.
Few players have attracted more interest than Brazilian midfielder Willian who, after seemingly on the verge of becoming the top player Brendan Rodgers needed to convince Luis Suarez future is bright on Merseyside, became the latest purchase in AVB’s summer spending spree.
The 25-year-old will prove a valuable addition to Spurs and, in fact, with the possible exception of Chelsea and Manchester City, there are few Premier League teams that wouldn’t have benefited from signing Willian.
Many consider a £30m price tag to be excessive for a player who has never featured in any of the continent’s elite league, but the Anzhi midfielder has developed immensely since leaving his home country shortly before his 19th birthday to join the Brazilian contingent in Donetsk.
At Shakthar, under Mircea Lucescu’s tutelage, the Brazilian developed into an excellent attacking midfielder and the Ukranian outfit’s chief creator, even though his goalscoring return was rather paltry – 24 goals in 117 games over the last three seasons.
During his spell in Donetsk, Willian was mainly deployed as the left prong of a trio of attacking midfielder in Lucescu’s 4-2-3-1, from where he would normally drift inside to use his favourite right foot to feed the likes of Douglas Costa, Alex Teixeira, Luiz Adriano and Jádson.
When, last winter, Willian decided to leave Shakthar behind ditching what had emerged to be Ukraine’s leading club over the last couple of years for the opportunity of securing a huge paycheck in Dagestan, Mircea Lucescu blamed ”the huge pressure” the Brazilian was subject from “his agent and relatives”.
Following his £30m move to Anzhi, Willian failed to reproduce the form he had displayed with Shakthar, even though he assisted three of his club’s four goal this season – those three assists part of the 16 key passes Willian has completed this season, more than any other player in the Russian Premier League – and he was still one of the few shining lights for Anzhi, who have picked up only two points in their first games of the season.
Should Gareth Bale complete his move to Real Madrid, Willian could be used in the same position the Welshman has occupied on the left flank, from where he would then be expected to cut inside as he has done throughout his career.
A quick glance at Willian’s stats highlights the Brazilian’s ability and confidence to run with the ball, given he’s completed 68% of the 25 dribbles he’s attempted in the first five Russian Premier League games of the season.
However, and that would represent a huge surprise even for Spurs fans, were Spurs to secure the Brazilian’s service while keeping Gareth Bale at the club, Andre Villas-Boas could move the Welshman in a more central position behind the main striker, with Willian out wide on the left.
Having said that, the Brazilian should not be see as a like-for-like for Gareth Bale, particularly considering his goal return is vastly inferior to the Welshman’s even though the Brazilian’s finishing could improve under AVB.
£30m would represent a club record fee for Spurs and would take their summer spending to over £90m. However, a player of Willian’s flexibility and who’s already played 34 Champions League games despite being only 25, could turn out to be a massive signing for either club.
Stats according to whoscored.com
Is Willian worth £30m or Spurs focus on someone else? Would the lack of experience in a top European league prove to be a stumbling block? Let us know below or get in touch via our Facebook or Twitter.