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

1 Comment

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?

Report: Mourinho to get bumper $89 million extension at Man Utd

Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jose Mourinho is in the third month of his second season in charge of Manchester United, and may join Antonio Conte as men to get a second contract early in his term.

Goal.com says Paris Saint-Germain’s interest in Mourinho will spur United chairman Ed Woodward into action.

Unlike Conte, who received improved terms and the same length at Chelsea, the report says Mourinho will get a new five-year deal.

[ MORE: Yaya Toure to NYCFC? ]

The report says Mourinho’s terms would be worth almost $89 million over the length of the deal, close to $18 million per season.

The 54-year-old has never spent more than four years at a club, his longest stay as an assistant as Barcelona. Last season, he won the Europa League and League Cup for United while finishing sixth in the Premier League.

This season, United is off to a second-place start, leading Spurs on goal differential following a first loss of the season Saturday at Huddersfield Town.

This is about money and security for Mourinho who, let’s face it, probably won’t stay at United for five seasons. It would go against his record, and it’s difficult to imagine he’ll buck his career trend and make it five years. The new deal would be a raise, keep him from PSG for now, and probably will do the trick.

Follow @NicholasMendola

Report: Yaya Toure lined up by New York City FC

Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images
Leave a comment

There are few details, but a report tabbed as exclusive by The Manchester Evening News says a new midfield force could be headed to Major League Soccer.

Yaya Toure’s resurgent 2016-17 has not been followed by a busy 2017-18, at least not yet, as the report says Yaya is set to head to New York City FC following the departure of Andrea Pirlo.

[ MORE: Koeman fired | Who’s in line? ]

Toure, who turns 35 in May, has regularly been on the subs bench for Pep Guardiola this season after signing a one-year contract. He’s played 29 minutes as a sub over the last two Premier League matches, and his lone start came in a League Cup win over West Brom, where he captained City.

Toure has 59 goals and 33 assists in 222 Premier League matches.

The Ivorian is not a pace monger, but neither were Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard and both were effective when healthy in MLS. Toure’s powerful presence in the midfield could be worth the wage packet and headache, but we’d pay a penny for Patrick Vieira’s thoughts.

Follow @NicholasMendola

Italy’s once-vaunted ‘BBC’ defense is showing its age

Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Image
Leave a comment

ROME (AP) With a combined age of 99, Italy’s once vaunted “BBC” defensive trio is showing its years.

The Azzurri will still rely on Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini in a World Cup playoff against Sweden next month but the signs in Serie A lately have not been encouraging.

[ MORE: Koeman fired | Who’s in line? ]

Bonucci’s red card with AC Milan over the weekend was the latest in a series of poor performances after his high-profile transfer from Juventus made him the highest-paid player in Italy.

Chiellini and Barzagli were beaten for goals twice by Ciro Immobile in Juventus’ 2-1 home loss to Lazio less than 10 days ago, and Chiellini was again off form in the Bianconeri’s 6-2 victory over Udinese on Sunday.

Chiellini was fooled by Stipe Perica for Udinese’s first goal and then left Danilo unmarked to head in another as he appealed for an offside call that never came.

Bonucci is 30, Chiellini is 33 and Barzagli is 36.

While Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura has shown interest in developing new talent, he has shown no indication that he plans to cast aside the “BBC” when it counts.

After all, Italy has historically been slow to incorporate younger players, especially defenders.

[ MORE: MLS Playoff Bracket set ]

That means the likes of Daniele Rugani (who plays for Juventus), Alessio Romagnoli (Milan) or Mattia Caldara (Atalanta) – who are all in their 20s – may have to wait for their chances with the Azzurri.

But Ventura would do well to remember how Marcello Lippi kept Fabio Cannavaro and other veterans in the lineup at the 2010 World Cup only to acknowledge after the first-round exit that he made a mistake and was overly influenced by the older players’ performance en route to the title four years earlier.

From Franco Baresi to Giuseppe Bergomi to Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Nesta, Cannavaro and the “BBC,” strong center backs have been a source of uninterrupted pride for the Azzurri for decades.

Gianluigi Buffon in goal has also provided a security blanket for nearly 20 years but he, too, is approaching the end of his career and will likely retire after this season – or after his record sixth World Cup if Italy qualifies.

Italy’s hopes of avoiding the playoffs were dashed with a debilitating 3-0 loss in Spain last month that offered a first hint of defensive problems. The defeat ended Italy’s 11-year unbeaten run in qualifiers for World Cups and European Championships.

[ MORE: Mbappe named Golden Boy ]

The Azzurri attributed the loss to Spain on Sept. 2 to a lack of physical condition so early in the season.

Bonucci, it was figured, just needed some time to adapt to his new surroundings at Milan.

In July, Bonucci completed a surprise transfer from Juventus, where he clashed with coach Massimiliano Allegri last season and was memorably left in the tribune for a Champions League match at Porto.

The transfer fee topped 40 million euros (nearly $50 million) and Bonucci signed a five-year contract worth up to 10 million euros (nearly $12 million) per season. He was also made captain before he ever wore a Milan shirt.

When Milan started to falter a month ago, physical trainer Emanuele Marra was fired – reportedly in large part because Bonucci demanded better fitness preparation.

But Bonucci was out run by Mauro Icardi on Inter Milan’s first goal when the striker scored a hat trick in a 3-2 derby win eight days ago. He was also to blame for the second, failing to mark Icardi in the area.

Things got even worse for Bonucci when he was sent off in the first half of Milan’s 0-0 draw at home with Genoa on Sunday for elbowing a defender in the head as he jostled for position on a free kick.

[ LIGUE 1: Neymar sent off ]

Bonucci will likely be given a multiple-match ban, which would exclude him from facing Juventus next Sunday and could affect his form for the Nov. 10 and 13 playoffs.

“Leo is a champion,” Buffon said. “He’ll become decisive again. But it makes me feel calmer knowing that we won’t have to face him on Saturday.”

More AP Serie A coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/SerieA

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/asdampf

MLS Playoff bracket, dates set: Chicago, Vancouver host Tues.

Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP
Leave a comment

Major League Soccer’s playoff bracket is set. Our staff predictions are coming Tuesday before the first round match-ups, but here’s what we’ll be watching…

[ MORE: Mbappe named Golden Boy ]

The chase begins with Chicago and the Red Bulls, and San Jose heading to Vancouver. The Quakes drew the ‘Caps just over a week ago, on Oct. 15.

First round
(E3) Chicago vs. (E6) New York Red Bulls — 8:30 p.m. ET Tuesday
(W3) Vancouver vs. (W6) San Jose — 10:30 p.m. ET Tuesday
(E4) Atlanta vs. (E5) Columbus — 7 p.m. ET Wednesday
(W4) Houston vs. (W5) Sporting KC — 9:30 p.m. ET Wednesday

Conference semifinals
(W1) Portland vs.  San Jose, Houston, or Sporting KC
(W2) Seattle vs. Houston, Sporting KC, or Vancouver
(E1) Toronto vs. New York Red Bulls, Atlanta, or Columbus
(E2) New York City vs. Atlanta, Columbus, or Chicago

Conference finals
Eastern Conference — Nov. 21 and Nov. 28 or 29
Western Conference — Nov. 21 and Nov. 30

MLS Cup Final
At finalist with best record — 4 p.m. ET Dec. 9

Follow @NicholasMendola