Anzhi Makhachkala were set to be the new Chelsea, or the new Manchester City, or even to compete with fellow nouveau riche Paris Saint-Germain. After billionaire Suleyman Kerimov took over the club in January 2011, it became clear that he had designs on making the club one of the most powerful in the world, spending over $200m on players. But after Kerimov suffered a financial loss of over $300m at the beginning of August, it seemed clear that cost-cutting measures were in order for Anzhi. Club president Konstantin Remchukov used his Twitter account to announce that the budget would be cut to between $50m – $70m per year. Other clubs took notice, thinking that perhaps they might snap up star players at a bargain price.
One of those players is Brazilian midfielder Willian. Willian first came into prominence with Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk, playing in the side that beat Werder Bremen to lift the UEFA Cup in 2009. He went on to feature in three seasons of Champions League play, making his presence known with a brace against AS Roma in the Round of 16 in the 2010-2011 tournament, and then scoring twice against Chelsea in the group stages last year. In addition to winning the UEFA Cup with Shakhtar, Willian helped the club to four domestic titles and three domestic cup wins.
Is it any wonder, then, that newly-flush Anzhi came calling in January 2013? They secured his services for a hefty fee, estimated to be about $45m. But after just half a season in Russia, Willian is back on the transfer market. And the big names are sniffing around, including Manchester City, Chelsea, and Tottenham Hotspur.
It’s thought that Manchester City are the ones most likely to bring Willian to England, with reports stating the Citizens have already lodged a £35m ($54m) bid. But despite Anzhi’s new cost-cutting measures, it’s believed that the club are not desperate to sell their stars, and will refuse offers they feel inadequate for their current players. And with City having already spent almost £100 on the likes of another former Shakhtar star, Fernandinho, along with Stevan Jovetic, Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo, they may be unwilling to up their bid for Willian.