The 25-year-old Brazilian midfielder explained his decision to move to the Blues this summer from Anzhi Makhachkala ahead of Spurs, stating categorically that the West Londoners are ‘better’ than the North Londoners.
“I always wanted to go to Chelsea. Chelsea presented an offer and it was always my dream to go there,” said Willian.
“Chelsea is a better club than Tottenham in every aspect. I have spoken with my fellow Brazilians at the club, especially David Luiz. I am also happy to play for Jose Mourinho. That was definitive in my decision.”
Whilst his remarks are somewhat predictable of a new signing – he couldn’t exactly say he’d have preferred Spurs, could he? – Spurs fans need not fret or bother – it was because of the club’s failure to sign Willian that they instead signed Erik Lamela from Roma.
It is my firm belief the 21-year-old Argentine is a much better signing of a higher technical quality than Willian who is four years the Spurs man’s senior. The Brazilian spent the majority of his career at Shakhtar Donetsk prior to his recent move to Russia in January.
It’s almost ironic – I wrote a piece back in January asserting that Willian may well regret his hasty move to Anzhi in January this year and, in a way, that prophecy became a reality in just a matter of months.
With all due respect to Shakhtar who have been involved in the Champions League and are the Ukrainian champions for the last three years in succession, the quality level and intensity of the Ukrainian Premier League is nowhere near the level of the English Premier League or Serie A where young Lamela has been learning and plying his trade.
In his time at Shakhtar, Willian was never a high scorer particularly – his figures in the league never reached above five goals per season and his overall totals never reached ten goals per season over the course of his six seasons in Ukraine. His stock seemed to skyrocket in his final term with Shakhtar, not only due to his performance against Chelsea, but due to his sudden form – he scored four goals in six Champions League games.
However, upon moving to Russia his form dropped considerably – he scored just one goal last term following his €35 million move and that remains his only goal for the club, despite his three appearances this term prior to his move to Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea paid £30 million to sign him from Anzhi – the same fee, incidentally, Spurs paid for Lamela. Pound for pound, I think it’s clear Tottenham got the better deal.
In one of the toughest and, frankly, most defensive leagues in the world, Lamela scored 15 goals and made 6 assists for Roma last term. He outshone the likes of Francesco Totti, and Miralem Pjanic and was their second-highest scorer.
He was the fifth highest scorer in Serie A – beating Stevan Jovetic, Mario Balotelli, and his Argentina teammate Rodrigo Palacio and on a par with Miroslav Klose, despite the fact he’s actually an attacking midfielder or winger and most of those are centre-forwards, of more experience and maturity than Lamela.
Lamela only arrived in the Italian capital in 2011 from River Plate – the former stomping ground of Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Gonzalo Higuain, Javier Mascherano, Martin Demichelis, Esteban Cambiasso, Hernan Crespo, Ariel Ortega, and Gabriel Batistuta – the club’s former students reads like a who’s who of Argentina’s finest exports of which Lamela is certain to become.
The youngster came through the development system at the Buenos Aires-based club in his hometown as a local boy with a big future ahead of him.
Wiliian began his development at another highly-esteemed South American institute, Corinthians in Brazil but he jumped the gun somewhat with his move to Ukraine (a pattern of behaviour prevalent in his career) – he’d yet to play a full season for Corinthians in his two years at senior level and after scoring just twice, he upped sticks for Shakhtar.
Willian didn’t earn his first cap for Brazil until 2011 at the age of 23 – both friendly matches – and he hasn’t been selected since. Lamela, meanwhile, made his debut for Argentina that same year in 2011 at the age of 18 and has been included again this year in their qualifiers for the World Cup next year.
The youngster’s career trajectory is most certainly on its way upwards – he’s a rising star – where Willian’s career is a case of trying to keep up and often finding himself having pushed too hard too soon. His chances at Chelsea this season will likely decide whether or not he ever gets another call up for Brazil and whether he features in the World Cup they host next summer.
But he’ll have his work cut out for him, competing for his place on the left flank predominantly with the likes of Eden Hazard and Andre Schurrle. Lamela comes in to White Hart Lane to effectively replace the PFA and PWA Player of the Year.
He’ll have a fantastic opportunity under Andre Villas-Boas to prove his worth to the Argentina national team coach Alejandro Sabella who, intriguingly, and in a story that comes full circle, began his own professional career at River Plate before moving to England where he plied his trade for Sheffield United and Leeds.
image: © DanielHP