Tottenham’s ambitious transfer plans have been dealt a setback with news that Anzhi Makhachkala playmaker Willian looks set to spurn a move to White Hart Lane and instead sign for Chelsea. The talented Brazil international has already passed a medical at the north London club and agreed terms, only for the Blues to hijack the deal at the 11th hour.
With the South American schemer thought to be part of the plan to replace a Real Madrid-bound Gareth Bale, the fact that Chelsea have interjected is a real source of contention for Tottenham. Given that the Blues also have more attacking midfielders than they could fit into two teams will also add venom to how Spurs fans view their London rivals.
Despite this, Jose Mourinho has laughed in Tottenham’s collective face with his comments about Willian’s eventual destination, with his smugness sure to incite loathing in Spurs fans.
"I think he's already made his decision," Mourinho said.
When asked if that was Chelsea, he nodded in the affirmative, with a sly grin on his face.
"I don't like to speak before time because football can be crazy. I know what the player wants, so in this moment we cannot hide. That is a possibility."
Tottenham are thought to be close to a deal for Roma’s prodigious talent Erik Lamela, which will soften the blow of losing Willian. However, it is evident that Daniel Levy wanted to sign both as a way of covering the considerable loss of talent that Bale’s exit represents.
Chelsea have been a thorn in the side of Tottenham’s transfer plans once before in the recent past, with Andre Villas-Boas falling short in his attempts to sign Oscar last summer.
Spurs have a working relationship with Oscar’s former club Internacional after signing Sandro from the Brazilian outfit, and it was thought that the talented playmaker was set to follow his compatriot to White Hart Lane. That was again until Chelsea showed up to steal the player away from Spurs.
Tottenham were also confirmed as being in the hunt for Eden Hazard before he joined Chelsea, but again fell short.
Although missing out of Willian will certainly be a blow for Tottenham, there is still time for Levy to sign a replacement. Should Lamela’s purchase be finalised it will be a real boost, and give Villas-Boas plenty of attacking options to play off lone striker Roberto Soldado.
However, the problem is that the likes of Aaron Lennon, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Nacer Chadli, Lewis Holtby and Lamela (if he joins) will have quite the task of filling the creative and goalscoring burden left by Bale.
These five also pale in ability compared to the likes of Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Andre Schurrle and the two Brazilian playmakers that would have been Spurs players if Chelsea had not interjected.
image: © Ben Sutherland