The transfer saga surrounding Willian is one of the more divisive footballing stories of the summer.
At Chelsea, there are few players who split the opinions of the fans like Willian, meaning the links with Barcelona and Manchester United are being received with varying senses of positivity.
Barcelona have failed with three bids for the Brazilian, whilst rumours of Jose Mourinho’s desire to bring Willian to Manchester United persist. With uncertainty surrounding the future of several key figures at Stamford Bridge, let’s examine both sides of this potential transfer.
Pro: Disappointing Statistics
Willian is seen by most as a key member of Chelsea’s attack. He plays in the majority of games, meaning he would be expected to contribute accordingly. However. when it comes to statistics, Willian does not offer enough to Chelsea’s attack.
During his Chelsea career, he averages one goal and one assist per six matches for the team, and his numbers throughout his entire club career are very similar. He contributed 25 goals in 55 appearances for Chelsea last season, fewer than the likes of Leroy Sané, Sadio Mané and Heung-min Son, despite playing in more matches.
Quite simply, that is not good enough to be a key component of a top club’s attack.
With the competition in England at such a high standard, Chelsea need players who can contribute to the team on a regular basis. Fans do not expect Willian to hit Harry Kane-like numbers, but he must contribute more statistically.
Con: Flashes of Brilliance
As previously discussed, Willian’s statistics can be perceived as slightly disappointing. However, there are times when the Brazilian looks as though he is one of the best in the league. On his day, he can astound defenders and create opportunities for his team.
He was one of the few players who performed well during Chelsea’s abysmal 2015-16 season, and there have been several occasions when Willian proved himself to be the primary outlet for the team. Eden Hazard is clearly the star, but when he is struggling, Willian has been known to raise his game.
He quite clearly has the ability to be a star, and could find a new level of consistency under Maurizio Sarri. At Napoli, José Callejón enjoyed a positive campaign playing for the Italian, and Willian could certainly do the same.
Pro: An Inconsistent Performer
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Whether you like him or not, Willian is a fantastic footballer. At his best, he can easily dominate teams. Unfortunately for Chelsea fans, he is not at his best nearly enough.
He regularly puts in average performances, failing to contribute anything to his side’s attack. He often misplaces passes and his vision often leaves a lot to be desired. Fortunately for Willian, he can often mask these poor appearances by putting in an occasional awe-inspiring performance.
To fans who don’t watch the games, his statistics show he is a reasonably reliable attacking option. However, fans who do watch the games often see the Brazilian fumbling in attack and halting their momentum. He needs to become a more consistent performer before Chelsea fans will be able to agree on his ability.
Con: Statement of Intent
Thibaut Courtois, Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kanté have all been the subject of transfer rumours this summer, with many Chelsea players insisting that the club must retain their key players.
Willian is no different.
He has frequently impressed during his time in London, whilst he has often dazzled when representing Brazil. He is viewed as a key figure at Stamford Bridge, and Chelsea are looking to show that their stars are not for sale.
Sanctioning the sale of Willian would highlight that the club is prepared to lose their most expensive assets, which is the opposite of their true intentions. Whilst Willian is not necessarily at the level of Hazard or Kanté, his standing in the squad is very similar. If Chelsea want to prove that they believe in their stars, they can’t afford to sell without putting up a fight.
Pro: Reinvest the Money
So far Chelsea have rebuffed all offers for Willian, which are believed to have reached around £55m. Whilst Barcelona’s signing of Malcom suggests they are no longer interested in Willian, he may still be targeted by other clubs who will know Chelsea’s valuation of him.
£60-£70m is undoubtedly a substantial fee, which could be used to strengthen the squad. Direct replacements for Willian have been suggested by fans, with the likes of Leon Bailey, Anthony Martial and Wilfried Zaha being repeatedly mentioned.
These players are all younger than Willian, and could possibly be available for a similar amount to him. At 29, Willian is unlikely to have many more seasons at the top level, whilst Bailey (20) and Martial (22) are just getting started.
There’s also the small matter of a certain Callum Hudson-Odoi, the latest star from Chelsea’s youth academy, who could profit from the increased game time and save the club a huge amount of money.
Con: Better Ways to Raise Money
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Chelsea’s squad is full with many expendable players who all contribute far less than Willian does. These are the players that the club should be looking to sell this summer, as Willian is not a priority departure.
One of Alvaro Morata, Olivier Giroud and Michy Batshuayi will surely be leaving Stamford Bridge this summer, whilst the likes of Pedro, Danny Drinkwater and Davide Zappacosta all bring less to the side than Willian does.
There were also 38 players who spent last season on loan away from the club, and several of these clearly have no future at Stamford Bridge. Lucas Piazon, Kenneth Omeruo and Michael Hector are just a few of the members of the loan army who should be sold, which would raise a small amount of funds.