Chelsea gazump Spurs’ signing of Willian

Tottenham feel hijacking of forward done to prevent Villas-Boas from making league challenge

 Anzhi Makhachkala forward Willian looks set to join Chelsea despite deal agrred with Tottenham. Photograph: PA.

Anzhi Makhachkala forward Willian looks set to join Chelsea despite deal agrred with Tottenham. Photograph: PA.

Sat, Aug 24, 2013, 01:00

Jose Mourinho made little attempt to hide his delight at hijacking Tottenham Hotspur’s move for Willian as the north London club raged behind the scenes about Chelsea’s €37 million capture of the Anzhi Makhachkala forward representing a vendetta against them.

Chelsea are confident that they will complete the transfer next week, subject to the Brazilian being granted a work permit, after the club’s owner, Roman Abramovich, made a personal call to his fellow Russian oligarch, Suleyman Kerimov, the Anzhi owner.

Tottenham, who had seen off competition from Liverpool, thought that Willian was about to sign for them in a€35 million deal after he completed a medical on Thursday.

Finessed contact
However, Abramovich finessed his contact with Kerimov and, to Tottenham’s fury, Willian was on his way to Stamford Bridge, albeit for a slightly higher price.

The Tottenham manager, Andre Villas-Boas, who made an unsuccessful move for Willian in January, before the 25-year-old left Shakhtar Donetsk for Anzhi for €35m, had intended to make the player his principal threat in the line behind the striker; somebody to offset the anticipated departure of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid.

Tottenham have now intensified their efforts to finalise a deal for Roma’s €30m-rated forward Erik Lamela. That is understood to be close.

In the wake of Willian’s U-turn, the complaints from White Hart Lane were loud and sustained. Daniel Levy, the chairman, was, according to sources, incandescent and there is the firm belief at Tottenham that Chelsea did not truly want Willian. Instead Tottenham feel that they have moved for him purely to prevent Villas-Boas from constructing a squad to challenge them in the Premier League this season. Chelsea deny this and insist they have always had an interest in Willian.

Tottenham also feel that Willian had no say in the transfer, that it was down purely to Abramovich, Kerimov and the player’s advisers.

Mourinho already has an abundance of options for the positions behind the striker, in the form of Eden Hazard, Oscar, Andre Schurrle, Juan Mata, Kevin De Bruyne and Victor Moses, and this has only increased the sense at Tottenham that Willian is not really needed at Chelsea.

The bad blood between the clubs was evident two summers ago, when Levy refused to sell Luka Modric to Chelsea in the face of a €45m offer and the midfielder’s desire to go. Abramovich does not like Levy, while there is friction between Mourinho and Villas-Boas.

They worked together at Porto, Chelsea and Internazionale but the relationship has soured. Their rivalry this season will be intense.