Why Willian rejected Liverpool & Tottenham to join Chelsea

Willian was unveiled as a Chelsea player in the summer of 2013
Willian was unveiled as a Chelsea player in the summer of 2013 / Clive Rose/GettyImages

Willian has revealed that he turned down the chance to join Liverpool in 2013 because he wanted to play for a club in London, while he also rejected Tottenham just minutes away from signing a contract because it was his ‘dream’ to join Chelsea.

At 34, Willian is enjoying a career resurgence with Fulham, having seen an earlier spell at Arsenal not work out as hoped and then returned to Brazil to join Corinthians.

But the veteran winger, who has made his permanent home in London, could have easily had a very different career had he been prepared to join Liverpool a decade ago instead.

Willian first arrived in Europe as a teenager when he was scouted by Shakhtar Donetsk way back in 2007. He played more than 220 games for the club and won 10 domestic and European trophies. But interest from Chelsea in particular surfaced as early as 2011 and Shakhtar blocked a transfer.

The Sao Paulo native wound up joining short-lived Russian powerhouse Anzhi Makachkala alongside Samuel Eto’o, before that experiment blew up and he was made available for sale.

“I went to London,” Willian told PL Brasil. “Liverpool and Tottenham showed interest. I was negotiating with both [but] not Chelsea. And in my heart the dream was to go to Chelsea.

"Proposals came from both [Liverpool and Tottenham] and, as I wanted to stay in London, I decided that I would go to Tottenham. It was alright, I had already done medical tests, all that was left was to go to Tottenham's training ground to sign the contract.”



Willian admitted that he was going to sign for Tottenham still ‘with Chelsea in mind’. So when an offer from Stamford Bridge finally came through at the 11th hour, he backed out of the Spurs deal.

Chelsea made an offer and I didn't think twice,” he recalled. “It was something I really wanted, with all due respect to Tottenham, which is also a great club, but my dream was to play for Chelsea.

“When I was at Shakhtar, the first club that made an offer for me was Chelsea…in 2011. I started to follow the club, I saw [Didier] Drogba, [John] Terry, went crazy for the Blues and decided that wanted to play for Chelsea. It became a dream.”

Willian explained that Shakhtar rejected three separate Chelsea offers, even hinting the Ukrainian club reneged on a promise to let him go for a certain amount.

He later went on to score twice for Shakhtar at Stamford Bridge in a Champions League game, but Chelsea had ‘given up’ by the time he was determined to leave Donetsk for a new challenge, with only Anzhi prepared to meet a €35m release clause.

“I thought the club's project was cool,” he said. “I played with Eto'o, we were runners-up in the Russian Cup. But in the middle of [2013] the owner of the team had a health problem, decided that he would stop investing and sell the players. And then my negotiations with English clubs began.”


On this edition of Talking Transfers, part of the 90min podcast network, Scott SaundersGraeme Bailey & Toby Cudworth discuss the possibility of Neymar joining Newcastle, Jude Bellingham's decision on his future, Lionel Messi leaving PSG & more!

If you can't see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!