So often Chelsea’s ‘Mr Reliable,’ Willian has solidly cemented his status as a firm fan-favourite at Stamford Bridge, but his time in West London could well be drawing to a close this summer.
Chelsea’s Players’ Player of the Year has hinted at a divide between himself and boss Antonio Conte, who is widely regarded to be leaving the club this summer.
“Oh boy! Do you really want me to tell you?” – Willian when questioned about his relationship with Conte.
Typical to Conte’s authoritarian management, Willian has consequently seen his game time drastically reduce, starting just one of the Blues’ past five Premier League fixtures. Question marks loom over whether he finds a place in the starting XI this Saturday.
The Brazilian’s former boss, Jose Mourinho, wasted little time in declaring his interest in the player ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup final.
“Who knows, we can have a Brazilian in the squad next year.” -Mourinho on his interest in Willian.
With Manchester United already boasting talented young wingers Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford in the squad, where would Willian fit in? What could he offer that existing personnel can’t? Would Chelsea even sell?
RealSport examine the answers…
Willian and Mourinho have a history.
The duo worked together at Chelsea between 2013 and 2015, with Mourinho bringing the Brazilian to the Premier League from Shakhtar Donetsk from under Tottenham’s noses. The two know the ins and outs of one another well and it’s a reunion, therefore, that makes sense should Willian leave Chelsea and decide to stay in England.
What’s more, Willian arguably played his best football under Mourinho, ending the 2015/16 season, the one in which Mourinho lost his job, as the Fans’ Player of the Year and the Players’ Player of the Year.
In terms of comparison, you need only look at Juan Mata for an example. The Spaniard was sold by Mourinho to Manchester United despite being one of Chelsea’s top performers, found himself on the fringes, but was then reinvigorated by his former boss when he arrived at Old Trafford.
It’s not as if Willian needs revitalising per se, but working under Mourinho again could rediscover his best form.
Willian’s work rate
Mourinho loves hard work and dedication in his players, qualities Willian provides abundantly. Despite the stigma surrounding Brazilian players that they’re ‘all flare,’ Willian epitomises hard work, energy and defensive work rate. He’s a perfect Mourinho wide player.
This is the key difference between Willian, Martial and Rashford. It’s not to say that United’s current wingers don’t offer this degree of effort -in a Mourinho-managed team, a high work rate is essential-, but Willian goes above and beyond.
For instance, the Brazilian made ten interceptions in 2017/18, compared to Martial’s three and Rashford’s seven, as well as 17 tackles, four more than Martial and six more than Rashford.
This is crucial; Willian offers a higher level of defensive work rate than United’s current personnel in the same position.
However, is that a reason to sign him?
From blue to red
The question, therefore, is: Does Mourinho need Willian? Whilst the current Blue would certainly be a great addition to his already star-studded squad, he no longer has age on his side. The Brazilian is 29, reaching the twilight of his career, whilst Martial is 22 and Rashford younger still at 20.
What United’s two young stars can provide is potential. Although Mourinho might not necessarily be the best manager to do so, the duo possess the ability to improve, whereas Willian has reached his ceiling. He’s as good as he’s ever going to be.
Nonetheless, the 29-year-old netted five goals and assisted seven, creating 56 chances in total, more than Rashford (21) and Martial (28) combined.
Willian won’t offer any drastic improvement on United’s attacking potency out wide, but the salient factor in any decision to bring him to Manchester is that he’s a Mourinho-model defensively minded winger.
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