25 Sep 2020 5:22 PM +00:00

Man Utd & Chelsea: Who wins in Martial-Willian swap?

REUTERS/Grigory Dukor

As the Premier League’s bigwigs come to the reality that they have less than a month to finalise their transfer business, we are now seeing some murmurs of significant movement between the top clubs.

Yes, Chelsea and Manchester United are discussing a potential swap deal between Anthony Martial and Willian. The Independent report that the Red Devils are looking for cash plus Willian if they are to send Martial to their rivals.

Chelsea, though, are keen to make their squad younger and recreate themselves under new coach Maurizio Sarri, whilst Jose Mourinho is desperate to add some established talent to his side to help compete with their inner-city rivals. Talent, moreover, that he knows well and trusts.

But who would get the better player in this deal?

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The case for Willian

Brazilian international Willian will be 30 years old by the time the new season begins, which means his years of top-level football are likely coming to an end. Now, at this age, you don’t suddenly become a bad player, but the production levels for a player beyond this point rarely hold up unless you are called Cristiano Ronaldo.


Willian, of course, is an elite player and has proven over the last five Premier League seasons that he is one of the best attacking midfielders in the league. Statistically, however, he has struggled to place himself within the top echelon of players. In 166 Premier League games, for example, he has scored 25 goals and assisted 20, contributing a goal or assist every 3.69 games.

REUTERS/Murad Sezer 

But, his trickery and ability to help create chances is still superb, and he makes those around him better. The Brazilian made the third-most key passes (1.2) per game of any Chelsea player, as well as completing the second-most dribbles (1.9) per game.

Plus, he is versatile in that he can play anywhere in the final third and he is defensively responsible, which is a major selling point for Mourinho. United, therefore, receive a player who can slot straight into their team, one that Mourinho favours and one well-versed in winning trophies.

The case for Martial

At just 22 years of age, Anthony Martial has the world at his feet and plenty of experience. When United forked out £57.6 million for him in 2015, they were buying one of the brightest talents in world football. The transfer hasn't worked out as expected, and Martial has failed to put his stamp on the team and has consequently been unhappy at his perceived lack of opportunities.

Since Mourinho took charge at Old Trafford, Martial has had to deal with being a substitute in half of his United appearances and, as a result, his statistics are underwhelming.

Last season he contributed 12 goals and seven assists in 50 games, though most of those appearances featured Martial on the left side of the attack and not in his preferred striker position. Martial did, however, contribute a goal or an assist every 2.63 games, slightly more frequently than Willian - every 2.91 games.

It's worth noting, too, that this is the record of a bright attacking player shackled by the defensive burden of Mourinho's instructions. In a free-flowing Maurizio Sarri-led Chelsea, the potential is great. This is still one of the world's best young players, one with an enormously high ceiling and career longevity.


Who wins the transfer?

Ultimately Martial is the better player so Chelsea would stand to gain the most from this transfer. But, is it possible that all parties win in this transfer?

For Martial, it offers him the chance of new surroundings and a manager who may want to utilise him more than Mourinho has. Willian, too, will get to play with Mourinho again and they were effective together at Chelsea when they won the Premier League.

REUTERS/Sergio Perez 

With the additional cash in the deal, United could also reinvest that money into another area of the team, as Willian directly replaces Martial's role in the squad.

Ultimately, though if you had to pick a loser, it would be United as they would give up a potentially world-class player for Willian, who is nearly on the wrong side of 30 and likely to have only a few years left of good production.

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