Manchester United Reportedly Favourites for Willian After Malcom's Barca Move

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistJuly 25, 2018

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 06: Willian of Chelsea during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on May 6, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images)
James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Manchester United are reportedly "clear to sign" Chelsea winger Willian after Barcelona opted to recruit Bordeaux wide man Malcom instead. 

Barca and United were the two main teams being linked with Willian before the former baulked at his £70 million valuation, per Sport (h/t Mirror's Martin Domin), and the Red Devils are now free of competition in the hunt.

The Blaugrana have agreed to sign Malcom for almost half that cost at £37 million, but Jose Mourinho would be reuniting with a former player if he were to land Willian, 29.

Sky Sports reported Barca's move for Malcom was completed after Chelsea rejected a third Blaugrana bid for Willian, which was said to be in excess of £55 million.

United would likely have to match that sum if they were to tempt the Blues into a sale, and James Benge of the London Evening Standard believed Chelsea would have been better off taking Barca's offer:

James Benge @jamesbenge

Chelsea should probably have taken the money for Willian... https://t.co/03yiDjNYEi

Winger Pedro scored the only goal in Chelsea's 1-0 pre-season win over Perth Glory on Monday, with Willian still yet to return to the side after his post-2018 FIFA World Cup break.

While some will look at the £55 million allegedly offered for a 29-year-old forward as an opportunity missed by Chelsea, however, Bleacher Report's Alex McGovern questioned whether Maurizio Sarri's side had got their way:

Alex McGovern @AlexMcGovern11

This must mean Chelsea selling Willian for £50M+ is over. Either they negotiated too hard and lost the sale, or they held on long enough to keep the guy they wanted. Who knows. https://t.co/XCoICN0NwJ

It's possible the club's new chief is eager to retain the bulk of his senior figures this summer and won't be any more likely to sell to United, who have need of a right-sided wide man. Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard were often fielded in that role last season but aren't natural to the position.

Journalist Tancredi Palmeri spotted some irony in Barcelona's late twist to sign Malcom, who had agreed a move to AS Roma prior to reneging, just as Willian once did with Tottenham Hotspur:

Tancredi Palmeri @tancredipalmeri

So Malcom is off to Barcelona, 41m€, and 5m€ per year to the player. Barcelona wanted Willian, and instead decided to do a Willian

Domin cited an interview that Mourinho gave to ESPN on Tuesday. When asked how many new signings he'd like to make in these final weeks of the transfer window, the United boss replied: "I would get two more players."

Chelsea may not be keen on the idea of selling Willian to a direct rival rather than an admirer from abroad, however, as Mourinho looks back to his former club once more to beef up his ranks.