Paul Merson has a piece on Sky Sports’ website today where he asks why it is that Willian has “escaped criticism” for running down his contract at Chelsea.
He says that the Brazilian has been “very fortunate” that Blues fans aren’t annoyed at him for reaching the end of his current deal, which expires this summer.
He cites the example of Christian Eriksen at Spurs. The Danish midfielder finally got a move to Inter Milan in January with 6 months left on his deal. He was frozen out at Tottenham for almost a year after it became clear he wasn’t going to sign a new contact, and became very unpopular with the fans in the process.
But that is just not a good comparison. The problem the Spurs fans had was that they felt Eriksen’s effort and motivation fell away as he tried to force a move away. They had no problem with him running down his deal – that’s just his right.
The club and the player agree a fixed term contract, and when it’s over it’s over. Neither is obliged to offer or sign a new one – that’s just how it works.
In Willian’s case, he wants 3 years and the club are willing to offer two. They don’t want to budge, so no deal is signed. Nobody is blaming him for his demands – he’s 31 and wants one final payday. That’s a legitimate priority for someone in the final years of his career.
He was keen to leave last summer, and the summer before that. The club received offers from Barcelona, but turned them down. That’s not the Brazilian’s fault. Then they were hit by a transfer ban and sold Eden Hazard, making selling him impossible. That’s not his fault either.
The club didn’t give him the move he wanted, nor the contract he wanted. But he stayed, put his head down, worked hard, and played an important role this season. What is there to be annoyed about, from a fan’s perspective?
Then you have the added factor that a large tranche of the fanbase, especially online, have been begging for the club to get rid of him for years now. They’re hardly going to cry foul when he decides not to agree an extension.
Merson says that Chelsea have “dropped one” by not getting him to sign an extension, but that’s not true either. They made an offer, he refused. He asked for 3 years, they decided he wasn’t worth it. That’s how a contract of any kind works. Their mistake was getting a transfer ban that meant they couldn’t sell him last summer, not failing to bend to his demands.
Willian will leave this summer and there while there may be some regrets on both sides, there will be no bad blood. Just some superb memories of a long and trophy-laden spell at Chelsea.