The curious case of Chelsea playmaker Willian
With the 2018 World Cup just around the corner, any player in contention of making their respective nations' squads will surely have one eye on a summer in Russia. Excluding maybe one or two individuals, the best way to ensure this becomes a reality is pure and simple: Get game time.
With this in mind, should certain players be considering their options for the remainder of the campaign? The obvious names that jump to mind are Oliver Giroud, Michy Batshuayi, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and perhaps, surprisingly, Chelsea playmaker Willian.
The Ox has already secured a move that he hopes will provide him with first-team football, although after a slow start to life at Anfield it appears improbable that he will be able to dislodge the Reds' preferred midfield three of Jordan Henderson, Emre Can and Gigi Wijnaldum anytime soon. Willian, on the other hand, might be beginning to consider his options following the return to fitness of Eden Hazard.
The diminutive playmaker has been at Chelsea since 2013 having signed from Russian outfit Anzhi Makhachkala for £30 million, however, since the arrival of Antonio Conte, he has found his playing time limited, making 19 of his 34 appearances from the bench and racking up only 1531 minutes on the pitch.
It could be argued that no squad is more competitive at this current moment in time than Brazil’s, who have qualified with ease from the highly competitive South American CONMEBOL World Cup Group with 41 points, 10 points clear of second-placed Uruguay. This success is reflected in the fact that the five-time World Cup winners are priced at 6/1 by the bookmakers and are once again amongst the hot favourites to lift the trophy next year.
Even more worryingly for Willian, he may want to take heed of the curious case of Chelsea’s attacking midfielders. Both Oscar and Juan Mata quickly found themselves surplus to requirements at Stamford Bridge on the back of very impressive seasons, particularly Mata, who was sold to rivals Manchester United just months after being awarded Chelsea's Player of the Year for the second successive season during the 2013-14 campaign. Oscar’s fall from grace has been even greater, having been shipped off to Chinese Super League side Shanghai SIPG in December 2016.
With the January transfer window looming ever closer, could Willian fall into this reoccurring trend? Depending on how far Willian has descended down the pecking order at Chelsea, this could come as a blessing to the Brazilian in order to save his World Cup ambition.
It is safe to say that the Brazilian would not be short of suitors, with moves to both Manchester United and Barcelona rumoured in the summer transfer window, but with both these clubs playing at the pinnacle of European football, a lateral move such as this may not benefit Willian’s playing time tally. He would be well advised to consider at least a six-month loan to a ‘lesser’ Premier League club, Everton perhaps, to potentially provide at least some form of European football.