When discussing transfer targets for the January window, it is highly likely that the name of Shakhtar Donetsk's Willian will come into the conversation.
The Brazilian attacking midfielder has been the focus of attention for several European sides in the past year. Among those, Premier League giants Chelsea (Daily Mail) and Tottenham (Sky Sports) have featured prominently.
Indeed, only at the end of December, Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas discussed his admiration for the star's talents in the Brazilian media (Lancenet H/T ESPN). However, much to his disappointment, the Portuguese boss suggested his club were out of the immediate running for the player's services.
Willian previously told Placar magazine (H/T Sambafoot) that he will be allowed to move on from his present club for €30 million. But what is it that makes him such a sought-after commodity?
Primarily, it is a simple question of talent.
In 2007, less than a year after his senior debut, Shakhtar were prompted to part with $19 million for the teenager's services (Shakhtar.com). His abilities were clear even at this early stage.
Normally playing from the left-flank, Willian has always offered a consistent goal return for his side. However, it is his creative qualities that set him apart from his colleagues.
This season, for example, the former Corinthians youngster has been his side's second most frequent supplier of assists in the Ukrainian Premier League (Soccerway). The only person with more, Darijo Srna, is the side's regular set-piece taker.
It was this increase in productivity that initially attracted big name sides to his talents at the beginning of 2012.
Willian has always been creative and technically gifted, but he has shown an increased maturity over the past 18-months. He is now more patient with his final ball and has grown into a big-match player for his side.
His ability to stay calm on the big occasion can be seen clearly in his goal return in the 2012-13 UEFA Champions League. Willian scored four times in the Group Stage, including two goals away against Chelsea. He also played an important role in a crucial away draw at Juventus, assisting his side's only goal.
While his colleagues, Fernandinho and Alex Teixeira, have also drawn great praise for their showings in Europe this campaign, Willian has been the standout performer.
At the end of December, he was voted in third place in the race for the Samba Gold trophy—an honour bestowed upon the best Brazilian player in Europe (Sambafoot). The accolade is just another indication of his growing status within world football.
The guile and trickery Willian offers are rare qualities, and exposure to European football from an early age has seen him develop into a fine all-around player.
Besides leading the way in a creative sense, Willian also shows a willingness to work hard for his team as part of the Miners' high-intensity game plan. It is yet another feature which adds to his appeal in the eyes of many.
Shakhtar's fine performances in the Champions League have highlighted just how destructive a player he can be and a recall to the Brazil squad is surely on the way.
Whether anyone will part with the €30 million asking price at club level is another question.
There is a distinct possibility, though, that his price tag will lower significantly in the next six months. Willian has just 18 months left on his contract in Ukraine (Daily Mail) and, having shown a desire to leave, is highly unlikely to renew.
With Shakhtar risking losing money on their expensively procured asset, now is the time to sell.
They are flying in the Champions League and will probably decide to retain his services until the summer to aid that cause. At that point, though, the player can surely expect to make his long-awaited move.
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