Sunday in Roston-on-Don, Willian played a familiar role. He generally stayed to the right of Brazil’s formation, he frequently pulled his team out of trouble by carrying the ball out of a crowded midfield and into the attack, and he played second fiddle to the star of the team on the other side of the pitch.
He turned in a steady but unspectacular opening match in a competition notorious for boosting the value of players who shine on the biggest stage the game has to offer. It’s unlikely that Willian’s market value changed at all. The question is, what exactly is his market value?
Enter the Daily Mail.
The Mail claim that Manchester United have determined that his value is £60m and they’re willing to pay it to tempt him north to Old Trafford.
That sounds a bit unbelievable, primarily because United would be paying £60m for a (near) 30-year-old. A 30-year-old Leonardo Bonucci moved to AC Milan for £35m last summer, and Chelsea were able to coax over £50m out of Atlético Madrid for a 29-year-old Diego Costa, both record transfers for players of those respective ages. Willian will turn 30 on August 9, the day the transfer window closes. He would break one of those world records depending on when the deal would get done. Willian’s good, but is he that good?
Let’s say that he is. In that case, would Chelsea want to sell? Who do we replace him with? What happened to the Anthony Martial swap-deal rumor? That sounded better, if even more unbelievable (though before Martial’s agent stoked the flames), and not because of the prices but because it would give Chelsea a good option on the wing. Then again, Chelsea need to replace both Willian and Pedro pretty soon, perhaps this summer already, so the £60m could be quite useful.
Willian used to say he wanted to play for Chelsea as long as the club wanted him, all the way to his retirement. That notion seems to have soured as of late, certainly as long as Conte remains in charge. Mourinho has continued to prod at the seams for the past 12-24 months, even if he seemed to publicly admit defeat last month.
It may not be £60m, it may not be £40m+Willian for Martial, it may not be anything at all. But with two years left on his contract, the next 53 days left in this summer transfer window should provide an interesting answer for Willian’s Chelsea future one way or another.