Willian’s Chelsea pledge ends Barca talk
Willian dispatched Newcastle with a winner worthy of a less humdrum game and then outlined why he intended to stay at Chelsea in spite of interest from Barcelona.
The Brazil winger is now in the 30-and-over bracket, which means a contract that has 18 months to run would be only moderately extended under current club policy.
Willian made it clear, however, that he would prefer that to a switch to the Spanish leaders, who were willing to offer fellow countryman Malcom plus more than £30million to land him. “Yeah, I have seen that, but my future is here,” he said of the Barcelona link. “I want to stay until my contract is finished. My head is here. My focus is here.
“Would I like a new contract? Of course. I am adapted here after 5½ years, a lot of titles, I am very happy. So, if they want me to sign, of course I want that. Chelsea is a great team, to play for Chelsea you have to put your mind to winning titles every year. Sometimes, one year it does not happen, but the second it does.”
Good luck with that. A victory that left Newcastle in the bottom three gave Chelsea a six-point cushion ahead of fifth-placed Arsenal and moved them to three points off Manchester City, yet it was obvious that everything is far from rosy in the garden being cultivated by Maurizio Sarri.
The Italian has constantly talked of the need to improve the “mentality” of players who have developed a habit of fading alarmingly for no discernible reason, and they did so again in this game.
Pedro gave Chelsea a ninth-minute lead with a lofted finish from David Luiz’s long ball over the top of a five-man midfield but, with Eden Hazard anonymous in the “false-nine” role he does not like, Newcastle deservedly levelled before half-time through Ciaran Clark’s header from a corner.
In the only portion of the game when Hazard did look lively, the Belgian set up Willian for a curled finish just before the hour mark that turned out to be just enough to seal a laboured victory. Sarri admitted Hazard had not looked like he was enjoying himself in the first half, but argued that the team were “more balanced” with him in the central striking role instead of Olivier Giroud, who replaced him for the final three minutes, or Alvaro Morata, who was left out of the squad. £50million of his own money to get them back up [from the Championship].
“You can’t hammer him and say that he should be spending when he wants to sell the club.
“What are Newcastle’s aims? They can’t be aiming at being a Manchester United or a Manchester City. They’ve got to aim to be a Bournemouth.”
But Newcastle fans accused Ferdinand of a conflict of interest because the billionaire sells Ferdinand’s own clothing brand FIVE exclusively at his retail branch Sports Direct.
But Ferdinand hit back, saying: “NUFC fans good morning to you all!!! Ya clubs turning a profit, no debt, oh & playing in the PL! Terrible!”
Levering on-loan Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain away from AC Milan would allow Hazard to move into his favoured position on the left and Sarri is also crossing his fingers that deals for midfielders Nicolo Barella, of Cagliari, or Zenit St Petersburg’s Leandro Paredes can be sealed sooner rather than later.
Cesc Fabregas’s departure to Monaco left only 18-year-old Ethan Ampadu on the bench as a central-midfield option should Jorginho suddenly start misfiring, which he did after just 20 minutes.
“Maybe he was tired, I don’t know,” Sarri said. “But if Fabregas was on the bench in the second half, he would have been on the pitch instead of Jorginho.” Ampadu remained unused.
Then there is the Callum Hudson-odoi conundrum. Sarri sent on the 18-year-old for the final nine minutes, and the Bayern Munich target was serenaded by the home fans. Sarri offered a huge hint that staying put would soon pay dividends. “Odoi, in one or two months, will be at the same level as the other players,” he said. What would Rafael Benitez give to have problems like Sarri’s? The man who led Chelsea to Europa League glory in an otherwise unhappy short spell in charge in 2013 knows his Newcastle team lack a cutting edge, but fears owner Mike Ashley, who was at the game, has no intention of signing a quality goalscorer.
“The final third is where we have to spend the money,” Benitez said. “The big clubs are paying 40 or 50 million for players who make the difference. “When you work so hard, and one player makes the difference like Willian or Pedro, there isn’t much you can do. “But if we work like we did and play with the same passion and intensity then I believe we will stay up,” he added.
“We will win against some teams, especially in the bottom half of the table.”