Chelsea: Juventus’ interest in signing Willian should not sway anyone

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 19: Willian of Chelsea is tackled by Sokratis Papastathopoulos of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Chelsea FC at Emirates Stadium on January 19, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 19: Willian of Chelsea is tackled by Sokratis Papastathopoulos of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Chelsea FC at Emirates Stadium on January 19, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images) /
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Juventus may be interested in signing Willian on a free transfer when his Chelsea contract expires at the end of this season. So?

Serie A spent the summer establishing themselves as half rest home, half isle of misfit toys for players Premier League clubs were eager, sometimes desperate, to shed. For every Romelu Lukaku there was a Davide Zappacosta, and Alexis Sanchez’s and Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s muted departure to Italy was a fitting denouement to what was briefly the Premier League’s marquee mega-swap.

Little surprise, then, that Juventus would come a bit late to the party (or very early to the next one) by eyeing Willian if he does not extend at Chelsea.

Willian has all the characteristics of a modern Serie A player. He is tactically and technically gifted, but no longer possesses the speed and directness the Premier League demands, especially at the top clubs. The pace of Serie A games fits his playing style and physical realities far more than that of the Premier League.

Juventus are never a club that lets a free transfer pass them by, especially for a player well into his 30s. And on the off-chance Maurizio Sarri is still there next summer, he could enjoy a reunion with one of his favourite players from his short, pointless time at Stamford Bridge.

All this adds up to a reasonable, passable idea that really requires no additional thought or effort from anyone until next season.

If Chelsea extend Willian beyond this season, perhaps Sarri will work his mind-control on Juventus and get them to make an inflated bid for a Willian – Jorginho package deal. Considering how many large offers the Blues supposedly rejected from Barcelona in previous summers, it’s hard to imagine they would accept one from Turin. Then again, Marina Granovskaia seems to be realizing that second chances don’t present themselves very often, so when they do, one must act upon them (see also: Luiz, David). Perhaps Chelsea would sell their No. 10 after warding off so many other entreaties.

But Chelsea should make extension decisions on their own needs, not on Juventus’ putative interest.

There’s this odd sense around the fan base that another club’s interest in a player means he is a world-class player of utmost value to the Blues (did you know Pep was interested in Jorginho? Yep. Therefore, regista). Whether he is a desirable or necessary player for Chelsea or the other club hardly factors in to the question.

It’s an expression of insecurity, outsourcing the evaluation of a player to a one of the “big clubs.” Given events around the club going back at least to the Antonio Conte – Diego Costa incident, it’s also another oikophobic impulse. If you distrust or despise the series of decisions that brought us to this point – particularly if you have strong negative feelings about the player in question – the last people you would cite on the subject are those at the club.

Chelsea should stand by whatever their plans for Willian were going to be.

If they think he is worth keeping for another year, they should extend him that year. If they think he is worth keeping for two years, well, we warned you about the slippery slope with the David Luiz extension. Or if Frank Lampard, Petr Cech and the board decide that Willian has been a useful servant and has earned back his transfer fee over the years but no longer has a place at the club, they can and should let his contract run down so he can sign where he wants.

If he was younger, Chelsea could maybe use Juventus’ interest as leverage to maximize a sale. But with everything else the club are planning for the future, and with Callum Hudson-Odoi’s unsigned contract still hanging about, they don’t have much to gain by rewriting their plans for a player entering his mid-30s based on interest in September driven by a coach who will probably not make it to the spring.

Of course, there’s always the chance that along the way Willian – excuse me, Willian’s daughter -will mess around with emojis on Instagram. In that case, Chelsea should make whatever adjustments are necessary to expedite his departure.

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His own actions and the decisions of the club, more than anything from Juventus, should drive his future at Chelsea.