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?

Barcelona plan Cruyff tribute at club’s training center

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) One year after his death, Barcelona says it will name the future stadium at its training center after Dutch great Johan Cruyff.

The new stadium at Barcelona’s training center just outside the Catalan city will be called “Johan Cruyff Stadium” in honor of the club’s former player and coach.

Barcelona says in a statement that “the most emblematic building in the facility where future Barca players are coached is to be named after somebody who played such a central role in fostering youth talent at the club.”

Barcelona also says it will commission a “commemorative sculpture” of Cruyff, who died of lung cancer on March 24 last year at age 68. The statue will be placed at Barcelona’s main Camp Nou stadium.

Cruyff is largely credited with launching Barcelona’s era of trophy success, both as a player and a coach.

As a player, Cruyff joined Barcelona midseason in 1973 and led the middle-of-the-table team to its first national title in a decade.

He later returned as a coach and guided Barcelona to four consecutive Spanish leagues from 1991-94 and the club’s first European Cup in 1992.

“I think the tributes are very warming,” said Cruyff’s son, Jordi Cruyff. “It sort of changes the sadness that we might feel as family to lose a father, a husband and a grandfather. It changes to a certain kind of pride to understand that he left something behind.”

MLS Snapshot: Defense optional — Crew SC outlast Timbers, 3-2

AP Photo/Bryan Woolston
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The game in 100 words (or less): As far as teams who get out in the open field and score the lion’s share of their goals on the counter-attacking, there aren’t many MLS teams better than Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers. The two sides met Saturday night at MAPFRE Stadium, site of their MLS Cup 2015 clash, and lived up to their reputations. Of the five goals scored, two were notched on flat-out counters and two more came to pass through quick transitional movements. Portland (9 points) dropped their first points of the season, falling 3-2 to goals scored by Justin Meram, Ola Kamara and Niko Hansen, while Crew SC have back-to-back wins and find themselves level on points (7) with the New York Red Bulls with each side having played four games.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS (afternoon) roundup ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

4′ — Asprilla opens the scoring early on — 2017 Crew SC defending, same as 2016 Crew SC defending.

11′ — Meram fires home the rebound for 1-1 — One of Portland’s biggest weaknesses last season was their set-piece defending. Looks like not much has changed.

19′ — Higuain feeds Kamara for a 2-1 lead — The question mark that Portland will eventually have to answer is this: How much, if at all, have they improved defensively in the open field? Based on this Crew SC counter-attack, the answer might be “not much.”

45+3′ — Adi recovers to make it 2-2 — Everything Adi does these days (even the bad things, like this first touch) ends up being good.

84′ — Hansen cleans up at the back post for 3-2 — Jake Gleeson made a spectacular reaction save to deny Kamara his second goal of the game, but the rookie, making his MLS debut, was in the right place at the right time.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Wil Trapp

Goalscorers: Asprilla (4′), Meram (11′), Kamara (19′), Adi (45+3′), Hansen (84′)

Andorra’s 11-year, 58-game losing streak is over

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Rarely has a scoreless stalemate in front of the home fans tasted so sweet.

But 11 years of nothing but losing will do that to a team.

Andorra’s 0-0 draw with fellow minnow Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying on Saturday ended its run of 58 competitive defeats.

It was the first point in qualifying for the Pyrenees mountain principality, population 80,000, since a scoreless draw with Finland in 2005.

Faroe Islands finished with 10 men after Joan Edmundsson was booked a second time with 15 minutes to play.

World Cup qualifiers: Dutch disaster persists; Greece hold Belgium

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s World Cup qualifying fixtures, as Groups A, B and H hit the halfway point in Europe…

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Bulgaria 2-0 Netherlands

Spas Delev scored both Bulgarian goals (5th and 20th minutes) to secure all three points and send Danny Blind’s Netherlands side (7 points) into fourth place in Group A, six points back of leaders France and three back of second-place (qualifying playoffs) Sweden.

17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt was handed his international debut for the Dutch; he was ultimately at fault for both of Delev’s goals; he was subbed off at halftime (as was Georginio Wijnaldum).

Luxembourg 1-3 France

Olivier Giroud scored twice (28th and 77th minutes) for France, and Antoine Griezmann added the other (37th minute – penalty kick), as Les Bleus maintained their three-point lead in Group A. Kylian Mbappe, Monaco’s 18-year-old rising star, made his international debut in the 78th minute, when he replaced Dimitri Payet.

Portugal 3-0 Hungary

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged the 69th and 70th goals of his international career (36th and 65th minutes), as Portugal (12 points) kept pace with an unbeaten Switzerland side (15 points) which managed a 1-0 victory over Latvia to keep their 100-percent record intact. Andre Silva scored the opener (32nd minute) for Portugal, the 21-year-old Porto striker’s fifth goal in six international appearances.

Belgium 1-1 Greece

Romelu Lukaku‘s 89th-minute rescued a point for Group H leaders Belgium (13 points), but it did little to mask an otherwise uninspiring performance from Roberto Martinez’s side. Kostas Mitroglu put Greece ahead in the first minute of the second half, but Panagiotis Tachtsidis saw his second yellow of the game in the 65th minute, and that was the start of Greece’s unraveling. The draw was just enough to keep Greece (11 points) in second, ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose 5-0 thrashing of Gibraltar moved them to 10 points with a superior goal differential.

Elsewhere in UEFA’s World Cup qualifying

Group A

Sweden 4-0 Belarus

Group B

Switzerland 1-0 Latvia
Andorra 0-0 Faroe Islands

Group H

Bosnia-Herzegovina 5-0 Gibraltar
Cyprus 0-0 Estonia