O frabjous day, Spurs-Land! It is I, your furry monster friend
Grover Uncle Menno, with another edition of Daniel Levy's imaginary shortlist. You know, the feature where we talk about how much we'd like to sign somebody before the soul-crushing realization that we actually won't.
In this edition, we profile former Black-Eyed Peas frontman Will-I-Am. …Wait.
Name: Willian Borges da Silva
Team: Shakhtar Donetsk
League: Ukranian Premier League (Прем'єр-ліга)
Primary position: Left Attacking Midfield
Can also play: A mean game of Ukranian Scrabble, if rumors are to believed. Also right attacking midfield, if you squint really hard.
Willian has been a player that Spurs have been linked to ever since André Villas-Boas was appointed as Spurs First Team Coach. Coming up through the youth ranks at Corinthians, he signed with Shakhtar Donetsk for $19m in 2007.
Willian is one of those now-fashionable players who has a dominant right foot but plays on the left. Like Gareth Bale, Willian loves to cut inside, and in this manner he operates more like an inside forward than a true winger. You won't see him cross the ball much, but he's deadly when he cuts in and finishes with his right. He's been tearing up the Ukranian League, and any concerns about his ability to compete in a bigger, better league have been assuaged by his performance in Champions League play, where he's scored 4 goals and 2 assists. He's got an incredible motor, and tons of technical ability. Plus Shakhtar loves to play 4-2-3-1 so there'd be little acclimation to a new tactical system. (And oh! the beautiful hair!)
There's just one liiiiiiiiiiiiitle problem: he's a left-sided attacking midfielder, and that position is currently occupied by some simian-looking Welsh guy who
dives walks on water. You know, him.
Likely price: £22-25m
Probability that valuation is wrong: Not likely. He's a key player for Shakhtar, and while no Brazilian wants to stay long in the Ukranian gulag, he won't go cheap.
Team's willingness to sell: Medium to medium-high. To nobody's surprise, Willian has been pretty outspoken about wanting to move on to a bigger club in England. If he gets a good opportunity to move to a high-profile club, he'll surely bolt, but Shakhtar won't let him go for cheap. He's vital to their Champions League success.
Fit at Tottenham Hotspur: Very good. Any team would love a player of his calibre, but with a healthy Bale in the side it's hard to see him becoming a regular starter on the left. There's always the right side of the pitch, but there isn't much evidence that he would be as effective wide right as he is on the left.
Possibility he ends up at Spurs: Medium. Willian has already come out and said that he wanted to sign with Chelsea this past summer, but Shakhtar reportedly rejected a £20m bid from the Blues. It'll take at least that much to get him from the Miners. It's kind of hard to justify spending that much for a player who isn't a guaranteed starter (or a striker), unless Gareth Bale is sold or transitioned to a new position. That said, Villas-Boas has declared his admiration for Willian several times since his hiring. Signing Willian could indicate a future change from a formation that emphasizes width to a 4-3-3 that is more centrally-oriented with width coming from the fullbacks. Also, in past interviews Willian has included Tottenham in his list of "big clubs" in the EPL that'd he'd be willing to consider. Anything's possible.
Grade if this transfer goes through at likely price: A. He's a fantastic talent and with Bale in the side a wonderful rotation option, but his signing might indicate a willingness to either 1) sell Gareth Bale, 2) sell Andros Townsend or Aaron Lennon, or 3) begin a sea-change in Tottenham Hotspur's tactics. This would be a very interesting signing, if it happens.