Manchester United have made fresh enquiries into the availability of Blues winger Willian in the January transfer window next month, according to reports.
The Red Devils are reportedly keen to offload out-of-favour Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the new year if they are able to secure a fee in the region of £35 million for the Armenian international, with Willian believed to be towards the top of former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho’s shortlist of replacements.
The Brazilian international was closely linked with United in the 2016 summer transfer window, before ultimately penning a new four-year contract to remain at Stamford Bridge. However, he has been increasingly used as a bit-part player under current boss Antonio Conte this term, and responded to rumours linking him away from the Bridge earlier in December with a rather ambiguous “I hope not”, with regards to a potential departure.
Mourinho and Willian have made no secret of their mutual admiration in recent months, with the 29-year-old telling Goal earlier in the season: “[Mourinho] likes me a lot and I like him a lot as a coach and as a person. He has put his trust in me and in my work, and I was very grateful to him.”
That being said, Chelsea will be all-too-aware of the dangers of letting one of their main stars join a direct Premier League title rival; see Juan Mata, and more recently, Nemanja Matic. Indeed, some pundits have gone so far as to suggest that Conte would be forced to resign should the Blues let Willian depart next month, despite his lack of regular league starts this season. Our own Jem Whitehead earlier suggested that Chelsea should persist with the Brazilian despite some less-than-stellar performances in the early season, as he has proved that he can come good if given consistent opportunities.