If Chelsea is going to make a move for Willian Borges da Silva, they need to make it soon.
The Blues have long been rumored to be interested in the Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder. Tom Collomosse of The Independent reported earlier in the month that the Ukrainian club would be willing to sell Willian this month for around £20 million.
Rumors regarding the transfer have gone a bit cold lately. That could change quite a bit with the looming suspension of Eden Hazard.
As David Hytner of The Guardian reported, the Belgian midfielder could be looking at a four- or five-match suspension at the very least. Hazard, of course, made headlines when he kicked a Swansea ball boy during the second leg of the Capital One semifinal.
A club competing for Champions League qualification can't afford to not have one of its best players.
According to John Drayton of the Daily Mail, the attraction between Chelsea and Willian is mutual. The Brazilian was quoted as saying:
My desire was there, with a £20.3 million offer from a big club like Chelsea. I wanted to pack my things and go, but I can't do that as I am under contract. It shows how much Shakhtar like me and shows that I am doing a good job, which is why they wanted me to stay.
I have tried to convince them many times to let me go. I know that Juventus and Chelsea have made offers to buy me and that motivates me a lot.
The club know that I want to leave, everyone knows that. The president has told me that he'll let me go for £24.4m and my intention is to sign for a big club.
Signing Willian isn't simply a move to help the Blues in the short term. The Brazilian midfielder is only 24 years old, so his best footballing days are ahead of him.
Now is a very good time to make the deal happen.
Getting Willian in now would allow him some time to adjust in a situation where there is much less pressure than would normally be around Stamford Bridge.
He would no doubt need some time adjusting to England and the Premier League. The timing right now is arguably the easiest to create as smooth a transition as possible.
With Hazard temporarily out of the way, Willian would have plenty of first-team opportunities.
The club is almost assuredly out of the title picture. Eleven points and jumping over Manchester City is an awfully large deficit to make up.
Chelsea is four points ahead of Tottenham in fourth and seven points ahead of Everton in fifth. That spot isn't guaranteed, but it's hard to envision the Blues failing to qualify for the Champions League looking at the competition around them.
Rafa Benitez has made it clear to Roman Abramovich that more players need to be brought in if Chelsea is to remain competitive across all competitions (h/t ESPN FC).
Much like Manchester City, it's comical that a manager who presides over a club that has previously spared no expense is lamenting his lack of options.
It is the truth, though.
Chelsea is a squad with obvious flaws, and those flaws are holding them back in their league campaign and cost the club a place in the Champions League knockout stages.
Now to take out Hazard, the club is looking at a pretty rough five-game stretch, or however long Hazard's suspension is.
Should the Blues be absolutely serious about their interest in Willian, they must make a move during the January window.