The last day or so has brought us quite a few rumblings about our pursuit of Shakhtar Donestk winger/midfielder Willian. With Shakhtar confirming both our interest and some degree of willingness to sell this morning I though it was probably time for us to take a deeper look at the player in question. We'll start by looking at the rumored price. Shakhtar mentioned in their statement that they would be willing to allow Willian to leave the club for €30 million. That's £24 million, and since we usually use the pound sterling in our transfer discussions at WAGNH I'll stick with that one from this point forward. It will really make it less confusing for everyone if we all do the same.
Now that we've got the price out of the way we can move on to the player himself. Willian turned 23 this past August making him a just about ideal fit with our youth policy if he was purchased this window. He's cup tied in the Champions League this season as Shakhtar were eliminated in the group stages. Willian joined the Ukranian side from Corinthians in 2007 and has been a regular starter ever since. He's impressed enough over the past two seasons that he made his Brazilian national team debut in November. With only 18 months remaining on his contract he's shown a real interest in testing himself in the Premier League, and there are certainly plenty of clubs interested in his services (Arsenal and United to name a few).
One concern with Willian is probably his size. He stands 5'8" tall with a very slight build, but plays a fairly physical game for a player of his stature. One wonders how he'd hold up in England, in a league known for being a bit rough. On the flip side of that argument Willian offers absolutely blazing speed, a non-stop work rate, and tremendous balance and agility. He's got the kind of quickness that will cause opposing fullbacks absolute nightmares when he's on the pitch if they venture too deep into the Chelsea half or try to play a high line. He also gets up to speed incredibly quickly.
Positionally, Willian is pretty much exactly what we are looking for. He plays on the left wing for the most part at Shakhtar and his speed would seem to be best utilized on a wing. He's easily capable of playing the right wing as well, as he's equally adept with either foot. He has also looked good in an advanced central role when he's positioned there. Shakhtar generally play their wings a bit deeper than we do, so it's fair to say that he's capable of playing as a more traditional 4-4-2 wide midfielder. He also seem like the type that could play a deeper central role, but I've never seen him do so.
Technically Willian is a very intriguing player. His dribbling is fantastic, but he does occasionally tend to hold the ball a bit long, or take too long to make decisions. He is known as a penetrating player, and he tends to play forward balls into space very well. He's much better when he keeps his passes on the ground than when he tries to play them over the top. One gripe I might have is that he will tend to be unaware of players cutting in behind too often, but it's not a real problem. His finishing has been a bit hit and miss. When he's on he's absolutely lethal, but when he's off he's probably best just not shooting. What I've seen of his crossing hasn't been bad but I just haven't seen him do it often enough to get a real feel for his ability.
Defensively Willian isn't exactly a slouch. He'll willingly track back and try to help out, but just isn't much of a tackler at present. He's shown flashes though, and been an asset when Shakhtar press, offering an active presence on the left. He's got a knack for being in the right place at the right time though, so maybe with a bit of work he can develop into an elite two-way player.
I've got a few Willian videos for you today. The first will feature all of his touches against the other very good team in the Ukraine, Dynamo Kiev:
Next up we'll take a look at Willian against Alexandria:
Here we have all of his touches against Arsenal Kiev:
And finally for today we'll take a peek at his game against Zorya:
You'll notice that all of those videos have been brought to us by the same user, so if you want to see more it shouldn't be too hard to find. Some of you may remember him from last years Champions League as well where he was absolutely brilliant. For what it's worth, he was by far their best player in this season's disappointing campaign. It wouldn't be too hard to argue that he's been the best player in the Ukrainian Premier League thus far either. It's hard to say exactly how he'll translate to the Premier League, but all the tools are there for him to have at least the same type of impact as Luis Suarez did last January.
Willian is a very good and extremely underrated player in my eyes. At the reported £20 million that we've bid on him I feel he'd be a pretty fair value. For the £24 million we've been told we can have him for he's certainly still interesting if a bit more risky. It's pretty fair for January inflation in my eyes, and while we'll almost certainly be able to get him cheaper by waiting until summer we could certainly use the help right now. I'd also be a bit hesitant to say that a pursuit of Willian rules us out of Lucas Moura or Eden Hazard going forward as we will certainly need to add more to the attack this summer.
Andre Villas-Boas indicated today that we are pretty unlikely to overpay for a player who isn't eligible for the Champions League, so I'd be a bit skeptical that a deal gets done for the £24 million figure we just heard. The addition of Willian would certainly aid our attempt to secure a top 4 finish this season though, and after today's uninspired performance we may be a little more likely to consider a bid. I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts in the comment section as I'm pretty sure we can safely say this one won't be going away any time soon.