The Brazilian playmaker Willian was persuaded by Chelsea to break off his negotiations with Tottenham while he was undergoing a medical with Spurs, it emerged yesterday, when Jose Mourinho indicated that his club had won an ill-tempered battle for the player’s signature.
It is understood Chelsea’s owner, Roman Abramovich, and his senior adviser Marina Granovskaia, a recent addition to the Chelsea executive board, intervened personally with Willian’s club Anzhi Makhachkala to ensure that they got the player. Anzhi are owned by the Dagestani billionaire Suleyman Kerimov, who recently put the whole squad up for sale, including Willian, signed from Shakhtar Donetsk in January.
Willian was prepared to sign for Spurs as late as 6pm on Thursday when the last-minute intervention came from Chelsea. The player, who is advised by Kia Joorabchian, decided that he would be ready to withdraw from talks with Tottenham where he was completing a medical. Asked yesterday whether he believed that Willian had decided to sign for Chelsea, Mourinho declined to answer but smiled and nodded.
Sources at the club claim that Chelsea have been tracking the £30m-rated Willian for some time. Given the promptness with which they have done business in the early part of the window, it is intriguing that the club waited as long as they did to make the decisive move for the player. Willian is expected to sign next week, once a work permit application has been made – which Chelsea do not anticipate will prove an obstacle.
As for Spurs, it is understood they are furious with Willian’s change of heart and that the episode will change how, and with whom, they do business in the future. Nevertheless, it was Liverpool for whom Willian was originally closest to signing, until Spurs intervened at the weekend.
As for Chelsea, Mourinho said yesterday that they have not given up on signing Wayne Rooney, although he “didn’t care” about new signings until after Monday’s game against Manchester United. In regards to Juan Mata, who has been suggested potentially as part of the Rooney deal, Mourinho said that Chelsea had no intention of letting him leave.
Nevertheless, Willian’s arrival would, Mourinho said, mean one player will have to leave on loan. It will probably be Victor Moses who has attracted interest from his former Wigan manager Roberto Martinez who is now at Everton.
Having confirmed with a nod that Chelsea were favourites to sign Willian, Mourinho said: “I don’t like to speak before time because football can betray you. This is a problem when we speak a lot about names and transfers. Sometimes it looks what is it is. But it isn’t. But I know what the player wants. At this moment we cannot hide that he [Willian] is a possibility.”
Having previously said that his only remaining transfer target was Rooney, Mourinho defended the decision to sign Willian by falling back on an old position that all managers were given to “lying” about their true feelings. Willian, he said, was an “extra target”.
He said: “I have to answer your questions and try to be honest but at the same time try to hide things. If you remember I said I was happy with my squad. Managers say we are happy but we are always unhappy.”
Asked how he felt about the Rooney situation, a player for whom Chelsea have had two bids rejected, Mourinho said: “I don’t care. At this moment I don’t care. I have a big match to play on Monday. I don’t care about new players, markets. I don’t care.”
Mourinho said that David Luiz would be back fit for the European Super Cup game against Bayern Munich on Friday in Prague. With the game against United looming, Mourinho maintained that he had been in the same position himself with a player that wanted to leave.
“He [Rooney] is their player, they know. We told [Barcelona] immediately David Luiz was not for sale, for example. The player wants to leave, the club wants to keep. It’s something we have to make a decision one way or another. Maybe I can persuade the player to stay, or the player persuade us to sell.
“We are going to try, we are going to try to the last day, as I was saying before, to add more quality to the team, to add more options, we are going to try.”