According to reports emerging from Russia on Thursday night, Shakhtar Donetsk manager Mircea Lucescu has confirmed that his side's star attacking midfielder Willian will join Anzhi Makhachkala this Friday for a fee of €35 million. (Goal.com)
Willian has been prominently linked with a move to the English Premier League for some time, with Tottenham and Chelsea supposedly those leading the charge. However, barring a last minute change of heart, it appears that he will be an Anzhi player within the next 24 hours.
Lucescu has been clear in his comments—he simply doesn't agree with the player's decision to leave.
Shakhtar have an important Champions League Last-16 tie against Borussia Dortmund in a few weeks time and Willian would, no doubt, have been key to his plans for that fixture. Now it appears that recent signing Taison will be required to play a more important role than initially expected.
With just 18 months left on his contract, a reduced price move to the club of his choice in the summer would have been a nigh-on certainty. Simply put, there is no desperate need for him to leave the Donbass Arena at present.
Anzhi, though, fronted by director of football Roberto Carlos, have made an offer that the player appears unable to refuse at present. However, it is a decision with potentially massive consequences for his future.
At club level, a move to Anzhi on a four-year contract would see the end of any dreams he may hold of playing in one of Europe's top divisions. The Russians, for all their financial power, are also still some way off challenging at the elite end of the Champions League.
Internationally, though, the deal could have a devastating effect on Willian's hopes of playing for Brazil at the 2014 World Cup.
Willian has been on the fringe of Brazil's planning in recent times, earning two caps in late-2011 under previous manager Mano Menezes. He may have missed out on the squad named to face England next week, but there has been a genuine feeling recently that his Champions League form would see him receive a call-up in the coming months.
Now, though, his challenge to impress new Seleção coach Felipão will become considerably harder. At Shakhtar he would at least have the platform of the Champions League on which to impress, while a move to the Premier League would have raised his profile considerably.
Russia-based players, meanwhile, have rarely featured for the national side.
The logic is simple. In Russia, however good his performances may be, he will not receive the media attention in Brazil that his performances may deserve. Hulk may remain in the Brazil squad for the time being, but the Porto forward had already established himself with the seleção ahead of his move to Zenit St. Petersburg.
There is also no guarantee that Hulk will remain in the squad for too much longer given his recent poor form.
Willian has much to offer any side, and I have no doubt that Anzhi will benefit from his capture. For the player, though, it seems somewhat disappointing that he will now be operating somewhat off the radar.
The hope must be, then, that Anzhi are at least able to challenge in the Europa League. They will likely qualify for next season's Champions League and have a good shot at winning the Russian Premier League this year, but next season could be too late for his World Cup hopes.
Whether good performances at Europa League level will be enough to impress Scolari, though, remains highly debatable.
Willian, therefore, has a big 24 hours ahead of him. The financial rewards of a move to Russia are clear and, at Anzhi, he is joining a side with the financial capability to spend themselves to domestic success.
In taking the money on offer, though, he may well be forsaking his long-stated international ambitions. A tough decision, indeed.
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