Sort of like finding out that not only has Grey’s Anatomy ran for 16 seasons, but that it’s now the eighth longest-running prime time television series ever in the United States, Willian has been once again linked with Barcelona this weekend. Cue dramatic slow-motion musical montage set to some Snow Patrol.
The latest episode in this story comes from Barcelona-based Mundo Deportivo, who claim that Barca have now been hot on Willian’s heels for a decade, starting when Pep Guardiola was in charge and the then-cornrowed 21-year-old helped Shakhtar “Brazilian Flavour” Donetsk to a surprising UEFA Cup title (the last one before it was rebranded the Europa League). Willian had apparently impressed Guardiola at the start of that campaign, before Shakhtar dropped out of the Champions League and into the second tier competition by finishing third in their group.
While surely Willian would’ve jumped at the opportunity to join Barcelona many times during that decade, were it actually something substantial and real, especially before joining Chelsea in 2013, that obviously hasn’t happened. Still, the report claims that Willian is “a very complete footballer of exquisite quality” and that “Barcelona has never ceased to have interest” in him.
It’s obviously not lost on any of the rumor-mongers that Willian is now into the final year of his contract at Chelsea, and an extension doesn’t look like a high priority at the moment, for either party. While Willian maintains that he wants to continue playing for Chelsea as long as he can, it’s hard to ignore the rising tide of youth, especially at his position where the future probably belongs to the likes of Callum Hudson-Odoi and Christian Pulisic — although losing a player rated at €40m+ not that long ago for absolutely nothing, even if the coffers are overflowing with money after the transfer ban, wouldn’t be all that palatable.
Barcelona, if they’re serious, will be free to make an approach in January to arrange a free transfer for the summer, though Mundo acknowledge that at 31, the decade-long window of opportunity may be closing. That’s also a convenient excuse for when this long-rumored transfer once again doesn’t happen.