Last summer, Barcelona’s board had to soak up months of ire from angry fans about the club’s transfer window. The Catalan press linked them with a series of targets before, after much delay, the Blaugrana confirmed the signing of 28-year-old Brazil international Paulinho in a €40m deal.
Fast-forward one year and the club are once again the subject of unrest. They spent months chasing Antoine Griezmann, who subsequently decided to renew his stay at Atletico Madrid. Now their number one attacking target appears to be 29-year-old Brazil international Willian, with talk of a €65m bid being lodged with Chelsea.
|Chelsea to win the Premier League||14/1||Offer|
|Barcelona to win La Liga||5/4||Offer|
|Manchester United to win the Premier League||1/3||Offer|
The parallels are clear and the move, once again, does not appear entirely logical. It should not be forgotten that Barca completed a league and cup double last season with Paulinho defying the doubters. He netted nine times in 49 appearances before somewhat oddly returning to Chinese club Guangzhou Evergrande this summer on a loan deal.
Paulinho epitomised the new-look Barca of Ernesto Valverde. Hard-working, industrious, energetic and a team-player. This was no star player but someone who was trusted by both Barca and Brazil, and who weighed in with a contribution at all ends of the pitch. Alongside Ivan Rakitic – another somewhat unsung hero at the Camp Nou – he excelled.
The club’s pursuit of Willian is in a very similar mould. Another Brazilian, he is renowned for being hard-working and able to offer a disciplined role which helps both the attack and defence. He is renowned as being self-less and willing to sacrifice individual glory for that of the team. It is obvious why Valverde admires him.
You can find odds of the Brazilian joining the Camp Nou at 1/2 while the same odds of him remaining at the FA Cup winners is currently priced at 2/1 and drifting. Sky Sports reports Barca having lodged three bids for his signature, with the latest €60m offer being knocked back. However, indications suggest a compromise is being reached and both Diario Sport and El Mundo Deportivo – the two main Catalan media outlets – are confident of a deal being struck.
The forward has long-been admired by his former boss Jose Mourinho, currently at Manchester United. The Red Devils reportedly have asked for his availability the last two summers but have not advanced far in negotiations. It is unlikely but not impossible he could yet join Old Trafford – with the club said to be hopeful of signing a wide forward – but the odds of such a deal have drifted out to 16/1.
Barcelona – whom Willian starred against in their last 16 Champions League clash last season – appears the most likely destination for the player. He may not be spectacular, but like Paulinho his impact at the Catalan giants could be most significant.