After being rebuffed in the transfer market this summer by both Diego Costa and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Brendan Rodgers’s desire to land a major signing at Liverpool shows no sign of relenting. Next on the list is Willian Borges da Silva of Anzhi Makhachkala, with reports contact has been made with the Russian club over a potential deal.
With Phillipe Coutinho making an impressive breakthrough on the left flank after moving to Anfield in January, Rodgers seems intent on balancing out the attack with an acquisition of similar quality to address the right side. There is high profile uncertainty regarding Luis Suarez’s future at Anfield but he is likely to support Daniel Sturridge centrally should he back down on his desire to leave.
Luis Alberto and Iago Aspas have come in this summer but they will be seen as too raw to be entrusted to start, whereas Stewart Downing, who Rodgers handed the right-wing berth to on multiple occasions last term, has been allowed to call time on an underwhelming time on Merseyside by joining West Ham.
That leaves a spot free on the right and it seems Rodgers is willing to spend big money in order to fill it with a marquee name. Willian joined Anzhi as recently as January for a total of €35 million euros and is likely to cost Liverpool a similar fee despite Rodgers heading into negotiations aware that the Russian club are currently undergoing financial restructure.
Anzhi have been forced to sell their most valuable assets as billionaire owner Suleyman Kerimov suffered a massive loss on his investment in a salt fertiliser company named Uralkali. The world’s biggest producer of potash saw shares drop by 20 percent in a single day, leaving Kerimov with an estimated €375 million loss.
This has hit Kerimov’s involvement with Anzhi hard, forcing a budget reduction from €180 million in 2012 to €50-€70 million according to club chairman Konstantin Remchukov. Coach Rene Muelensteen was sacked after just 16 days in charge and players like Samuel Eto’o, whom Anzhi made the highest-paid footballer in the world back in 2011 with wages topping €20 million per year, are having to be sold.
Willian is also likely to be placed in the shop window, but with €30 million the reported asking price, it seems Anzhi will be unwilling to stray too far away from the huge sum they paid Shakthar Donetsk for the Brazilian winger earlier in the year. Liverpool would also have to pick up the player’s £100,000 wages.
This may deter Rodgers given the considerable spend he has outlaid so far this summer, but in Willian they will be getting a player who scored 8 times and assisted 15 goals in 35 games last season and has already provided 3 assists in 4 games in this year’s Russian Premier Liga.
The 25 year old was involved in a goal every 120 minutes last season whilst in the Champions League, where he played in all 6 of Shakhtar’s group games, he was involved in a goal every 75 minutes. Liverpool will be getting a winger of the utmost creative potency.
Willian offers versatility in his comfort in all the positions across the front 3, able to glide away from defenders with superb composure and technique. He is mostly a creator from his natural position on the flanks though he possesses a deadly long range strike and it was he who produced a display of clinical finishing in scoring both of Shakhtar’s goals in the 3-2 defeat to Chelsea in last year’s Champions League.
He is a supreme dribbler, brushing past markers with close control and nimble footwork, relying on gifted skill, technical efficiency and an explosive burst of pace instead of natural physique to beat players.
Despite usually being deployed on the left wing, a criticism of Willian is that he is often too keen to use his right-foot, almost appearing one-footed at times. That will provide comfort to Rodgers as he aims to fill his vacant right-sided position.
There should be no scepticism of Willian’s quality or on his ability to adapt to the demands of the Premier League, but the jury will remain out on Liverpool’s desire to sign the winger and if they decide to stretch to such massive prices in order to fund the move.
It will bode in Liverpool’s favour Willian’s desire to eventually leave Anzhi and stake a claim to appear for Brazil, for whom he has 2 caps, in next year’s home World Cup. Speaking after getting into Goal.com’s countdown of Europe’s top 50 players, a testament in itself to Willian’s quality, the Brazilian said “I have the goal of playing for a big club and being in the spot light to rejoin the Brazil national team”.
With Liverpool’s interest meeting a possible Anzhi fire-sale, the talented Brazilian may get his spotlight in Merseyside rather than the obscure backwaters of Dagestan.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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