Chelsea’s Willian has been one of their most important players over the last few years. He might not have been consistent every season, but the Brazilian has proved his quality time and time again. Be it this season or his first, Willian has come up with important moments many times.
Amongst a new breed of Chelsea players, Willian is now the veteran in that side. The 31-year-old has, despite Frank Lampard bringing in many young faces, been key to the Blues’ success so far this season.
He has played as many as 11 times in the Premier League, scoring twice and assisting thrice. In the UEFA Champions League, he has scored once. That goal came in Chelsea’s 2-1 win over Lille away from home.
While Willian did take some criticism under Maurizio Sarri last season, the former Anzhi man was crucial in dark times. Some key contributions came in Jose Mourinho’s last season at Stamford Bridge- the 2015-16 campaign. He scored five times, racking up six assists at that time.
Links with Barcelona have never really gone away too. From the summer of 2017 to as recent as this past summer, Barca have always kept a keen eye on the winger. Not just that, but the Catalans have had bids rejected by Chelsea too.
On paper, it will always sound like a weird move. That’s because of Willian’s age and how he isn’t quite the superstar anymore. But the winger still has a lot to give for a club that needs depth in attacking areas.
This season, Willian has registered the fourth-highest number of key-passes per game- 1.6. He has also completed the fourth-highest number of dribbles per game for the Blues too- 1.5 (via Whoscored). Both of them are the most prominent parts of Willian’s playing style.
He likes to dribble, stay wide and put crosses in. When playing on the right, the Brazilian sticks to the touchline and constantly creates opportunities for the strikers.
Despite having been criticised last season, Willian was second in the assists tally behind Eden Hazard. He played the second-highest number of key passes- 2.5. He also completed the highest number of crosses per game in the season- 1.2.
His versatility is also important. Willian can play at number ten or on either flank. But his key aspects remain the same.
As things stand, Barcelona have four experienced attacking players in Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Ousmane Dembele and summer signing Antoine Griezmann. They have younger players in Carles Perez and Ansu Fati slowly rising up the pecking order.
The club sold Malcom to Zenit, a season after signing him from Bordeaux. Willian’s Brazilian counterpart could play only 15 times in the La Liga, scoring once.
Dembele was linked with a move away from Barca over the last few transfer windows. He was expected to be part of the deal that could have brought Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain. His discipline and attitude issues make him a player that Barcelona have not always relied on.
At the age of 22, he will still be of high value. He certainly has the ability to change games and add a lot to any team in the world. But the off-field issues never help.
Willian, on the other hand, is a thorough professional. He has played 307 games in all competitions for Chelsea since joining and has stayed at the club, despite all the peaks and troughs. His numbers and contributions show that he still has a lot to give.
Mourinho has always been known to be a big fan of Willian. During his spell at United, reports claimed that Jose wanted Willian at Old Trafford. On Willian, Jose once said:
“Do you want to talk about Willian? Top, cream of the crop, he’s amazing.”
He is now 31 and his deal at the Bridge runs out in the summer. Barca have been linked with a free transfer for him, along with Inter. For a professional like him, that could be a big move for any club. If Dembele does leave the Nou Camp at some point, Willian could easily step up and contribute.