Official: Chelsea agree Willian deal. So what can we expect?

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Willian is almost a Chelsea man.

On Sunday morning Chelsea Football Club posted the following statement on their website about the 25-year-old Brazilian international attacker:

“Chelsea Football Club can confirm an agreement has been reached with both Willian and his club Anzhi Makhachkala for the transfer of the Brazilian player. The transfer is subject to a work permit hearing on Wednesday.”

So, a pretty routine work permit hearing aside and Chelsea have a new $45 million winger at Stamford Bridge.

After sneaking behind Tottenham Hotspur to seal the deal, Chelsea rate the Brazilian wide-man highly. His showing last season against Chelsea for Shakthar Donetsk in the Champions League obviously made plenty of Chelsea’s hierarchy stand up and take notice.

(MORE: Chelsea move in to scupper Tottenham’s Willian deal)

To give him his full name, Willian Borges de Silva scored twice at Stamford Bridge on November 7 2012 as Donetsk went down 3-2 to Chelsea in the UCL Group stages.

Willian was a constant threat that evening, as his direct play out wide epitomized Donetsk’s attacking impetus.

But let’s just consider the wide options Chelsea already have.

Eden Hazard, Oscar, Kevin De Bruyne, Victor Moses, Andre Schurrle and even Juan Mata can operate on either flank and will compete with Willian for minutes. That’s an incredible list of attackers in José Mourinho’s squad and the Brazilian will do well to jump ahead of all of the names on that illustrious list.

Yet Willian is certainly a man for the big occasion, last season in the Champions League he had 10 shots, six were on target and he scored four times. Excellently economical.

But do Chelsea need him?

He is fast, direct and commits defenders before breezing past them. He reminds me of Tottenham winger Aaron Lennon, but he scores more goals and has a better end product than Lennon and Willian’s poise when getting to the byline and cutting it back is an extremely difficult skill to master. Having that kind of composure at the crucial moment is something that he will need to recreate on the biggest stages in European soccer with Chelsea.

source: AP
Can Willian become Chelsea’ most influential Brazilian?

So that’s Willian the player. What about Willian the person?

After watching reports in the UK about the Brazilian winger this weekend, I’d heard Willian described as the “ultimate mercenary” for his flirtation with several English clubs and his transfer policy in the past.

For a brief bit of history, Willian signed for Shakthar Donetsk who pay notoriously high wages in terms of other Eastern European teams. He then moved from there to Anzhi in January 2013, who up until recently had money to burn and were paying striker Samuel Eto’o in the region of $36 million a year.

Last Saturday reports had Willian moving to Liverpool, but then Spurs emerged as the favorites as pictures of the diminutive Brazilian at Tottenham’s training ground were leaked and he passed a medical. But while the deal was being sorted out, Chelsea nipped in and now Willian’s future lies at Stamford Bridge.

But he’s worth it. Willian is a difference maker, at the drop of a hat he can swivel, turn and accelerate away from a full back, get to the byline and provide a perfect cut back. That seems to be exactly what Chelsea need and already have from several players. Hazard is similar to that but with less pace, Willian on one wing and Hazard on the other would certainly compliment each other well. But don’t forget about Chelsea’s whole host of other wide attacking talents. How can they fit them all in? Regardless, Willian will get the chance to shine in the Premier League before the World Cup in his home nation of Brazil.

Joining countrymen David Luiz, Ramires and Oscar in West London, will Willian be Chelsea’s best Brazilian yet?

Andrija Novakovich: “It’s a good feeling” to earn USMNT call up

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As the U.S. Men’s National Team continues its transition towards qualifying for the 2022 World Cup, a new face has emerged for the Stars and Stripes ahead of its upcoming friendly against Paraguay.

[ MORE: USMNT adds Kekuta Manneh to roster ahead of Paraguay friendly ]

Striker Andrija Novakovich earned his first call up on Sunday when U.S. manager Dave Sarachan named the Telstar player in his squad, which will play the South American side on March 27 in Cary, North Carolina.

The 21-year-old forward has been nothing short of brilliant in his first season with the Dutch second-division club, scoring 18 league goals for Telstar — who sit fourth in the Eerste Divisie.

“It’s a good feeling to get the call-up and hopefully it will be a very good experience,” Novakovich said. “They [the U.S. national team] sent the club and myself an email saying that I was on the preliminary roster and we were just waiting, and then this week I got another email saying I was on the final roster.

“I called my Mum right away and she’s proud, she’s happy.

“I’m just there for the experience — of course I want to play, of course I want to get the opportunity and hopefully that will happen, It’s an honour to be called up and I’m very proud and very happy.”

Novakovich, a Wisconsin native, is currently on loan at Telstar from English Championship side Reading.

The young USMNT player moved to England back in 2014 to join Reading’s academy, despite originally planning on playing for Marquette University following high school.

Despite this being his first senior-team call up, Novakovich is familiar with the U.S. national team setup. Novakovich has previously represented the Under-17, U-18 and U-20 national teams.

Lionel Messi suggests 2018 will be his final World Cup

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Lionel Messi’s track record as a professional has encompassed just about every imaginable accolade, but one that has eluded he and his Argentina national teammates is winning the World Cup.

[ MORE: Kekuta Manneh added to USMNT squad ahead of Paraguay friendly ]

The Barcelona star has played a significant role for the Albiceleste since debuting for Argentina back in 2005, and even helped guide the South American power to the 2014 World Cup final, however, harsh criticism from local media could push Messi and many of his teammates towards not returning to the national team.

This wouldn’t be the first time Messi has contemplated international retirement, though.

Following the 2016 Copa America Centenario final — which resulted in a Chilean victory over Messi’s Argentina — the Blaugrana attacker announced his retirement from the Albiceleste. While he has since returned to the international scene, it appears Messi is once again considering a halt from representing Argentina.

“It’s just the feeling that this group of players has. It seems that having reached three straight finals didn’t mean anything,” Messi told La Cornisa TV. “Obviously, we depend on results and unfortunately, we reached three finals and we didn’t win them.

“A lot was said about us. The criticisms hurt back then. But the demand is going to be there for this group to get it done. We think that if we don’t do it, we are going to get a lot more [criticism] and we are not going to have another possibility.”

Argentina has fallen in three consecutive major finals dating back to 2014, including two Copa America competitions and the World Cup.

Messi says these shortcomings have weighed heavily on him, and that winning a World Cup is still the one goal that has left him hungry.

“I’ve cried many times for lost finals,” the Barca forward said. “I cried for not being able to fulfill the dream of our nation. My desire is the same as every Argentine, which is to lift the World Cup.”

He continued: “To win a World Cup is not easy. It doesn’t happen often. The last time we did things well but due to minor details we didn’t get it done. We are very enthusiastic and eager to lift the cup for our country. I hope God helps us and it happens.”

Messi has scored 61 international goals in his international career for Argentina, the most of any player from his native country.

Brazil to play Austria in final warmup game for World Cup

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VIENNA (AP) The Austrian soccer federation says Brazil will play its final warmup game for the World Cup against Austria on June 10, a week before the five-time world champions take on Switzerland in their Group E opener.

[ MORE: USMNT adds Kekuta Manneh to roster ahead of friendly ]

The match will be played in Vienna at Ernst Happel Stadium, the same venue where both teams last met in a 2014 friendly, which Brazil won 2-1.

Brazil has further build-up games against World Cup host Russia (March 23), world champion Germany (March 27) and Croatia (June 3) ahead of the June 14-July 15 tournament, where it also meets Costa Rica and Serbia in the group stage.

Austria failed to qualify for the World Cup but will also play friendlies against Russia on May 30 and Germany on June 2.

Fiorentina renames training ground for Davide Astori

Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images
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Fiorentina’s training ground has been renamed “Centro Sportivo Davide Astori” in honor of the club’s deceased captain.

[ MORE: Manneh added to USMNT squad ]

Davide Astori died in his team hotel room on March 4, shocking the Italian soccer world and triggering tributes around the world of soccer.

The respected Italian national team center back has had number retired by both Fiorentina and former club Cagliari.

Thousands packed a Florence piazza to salute the player en route to his funeral, and the club won its first match after his passing following vivid pre- and in-match tributes.