Shakhtar winger Willian is one of the most coveted players in Europe at the moment, with plenty of big hitters linked with a move for the Brazilian in the coming months. In England, Tottenham, Chelsea and Man City appear to be breaking away from the chasing pack, but which of the three clubs would be most suitable for the attacker? talkSPORT has more...
Case for Man City:
City have a squad packed with quality, but lack a classy winger and the Brazilian should be able to fill that role with minimal fuss, as he's equally happy cutting inside or bursting forward to the byline and firing in crosses. Their recent failures in Europe as well as their draw with Chelsea in the Premier League show City are beginning to look a touch predictable when attacking, and the addition of someone capable of stretching the play on the flanks could have obvious benefits for the Citizens. The allure of competing for the Premier League title as well as the riches on offer should also be tempting for the Shakhtar man.
To say that City don't have the best record with Brazilian imports would be an understatement. The Manchester side paid £19m for major flop Jo in 2008, with the striker only managing to score once in the league before being offloaded on various loan spells, then eventually sold in 2012. A huge £32.5m was spent on Robinho, who despite having a bright first season at the Etihad, saw his form dip dramatically, and seemed to quickly fall out of love with the club and the city of Manchester. A third example is Elano, who, appropriately in relation to Willian, moved from Shakhtar in 2007. Like Robinho, he started brightly, but also faded quickly, too, and left in 2009 as a relative failure. At the same time, there's also the fact that Willian's Shakhtar side have managed to do better than City in the Champions League. He is likely to be looking for a step up in Europe, not a step backwards, and with it difficult to put a time scale on when exactly City will start to produce the goods in the Champions League, he could be waiting a long time to taste European glory at the Etihad. City's early exit this year could yet prove influential in their summer dealings next season.
Case for Chelsea:
Chelsea's determination to forge a more attack-minded team should be encouraging for Willian, and his abundance of skill and flair would put him in good company among Oscar, Eden Hazard and Juan Mata. Moreover, the opportunity to partner Oscar in particular may entice the Shakhtar man, because with just two Brazil caps to his name, he's still trying to break into the national set-up. International coaches are always keen to try and replicate strong club understandings, so Willian would have the opportunity to make himself Oscar's indispensable partner in crime at Stamford Bridge, putting him in good stead ahead of Brazil's home World Cup in 2014. Also, the presence of David Luiz would also help him in the process of adaptation.
The obvious dissuading factor at Stamford Bridge is the constant upheaval at the club, and with Willian at a pivotal moment in his career, he'll want to make sure his next move is the right one. For every player or coach lured by the money and glory on offer at Chelsea, there's also a growing number put off by the lack of stability. He faces strong competition for his place in the Blues starting XI from Juan Mata and Eden Hazard, so depending on his attitude, he may instead prefer to move to a side with a ready made position available in the starting line-up.
Case for Tottenham:
Tottenham made some smart signings in the summer, with Clint Dempsey beginning to find form, and Moussa Dembele also endearing himself at White Hart Lane. Even Hugo Lloris is beginning to carve his place out in the Tottenham team, despite initial uncertainty over how he would fit in, so Willian can take comfort from the success of recent new arrivals at the north London side. Spurs are the opposite to Chelsea in terms of stability and chairman Daniel Levy looks like he will persist with manager Andre Villas-Boas, and if AVB can get Tottenham producing attractive, winning football on a regular basis, then a player with Willian's skill would love to be part of that. Villas-Boas is fond of using creative, fast, attacking players on the wing, so the Portuguese is likely to have a place in mind for his pal at Shakhtar and a Willian and Bale combination could be the deadliest in the Premier League.
While there's little doubt Chelsea and Man City will be playing Champions League football next season, the jury is still out at White Hart Lane in that regard, and where Spurs finish at the end of the season, will have a huge impact on their summer business. Willian has already had a taste of Europe's elite competition at Shakhtar, and continuing to compete at that level is likely be a requirement when assessing his suitors. Tottenham are also unlikely to offer quite as much money as the other two clubs, though that may not be Willian's biggest motivation.
All three sides have their obvious strengths and weaknesses in trying to tempt Willian with a move. Notably, Brazilians seem to struggle to settle at City, and the Manchester side have a poor record of getting the best out of them, so that could prove dissuasive for the winger. Chelsea, meanwhile, are a club shrouded in uncertainty, and with strong competition in his position, the Shakhtar man's success at Stamford Bridge could largely depend on the whims of whoever the manager happens to be at the time, which in itself is never easy to predict. Though Spurs can offer a stable environment that could help the attacker settle and find his best form in a new league, there's also a chance that they won't be playing in the Champions League, which would be a blow to their chances of signing him. If they can't manage a top four finish, then AVB and Willian's friendship is likely to count for nothing and it could be a two horse race between Chelsea and City.
What do you think? Which of the three clubs above is best placed to sign Willian? Leave a comment below...