Valverde-Willian: the keys to Barça boss' 'love at first sight'

The Barcelona coach was impressed with the Chelsea man in the Champions League

Valverde, enamorado de Willian
Valverde, enamorado de Willian | EFE

They say our brains take a second to fall in love. In reality, Ernesto Valverde needed a little more time to fall for Willian. It took exactly 180 minutes. Or, in other words, the Champions League tie between Barcelona and Chelsea. Since then, the Brazilian has been a weakness for the Barça boss, who has asked the club to sign him. With Roman Abramovich ready to sell and the Brazilian crazy about coming to Camp Nou, the Catalan club are confident of closing the deal and satisfying their coach. 

The unexpected departure of Neymar last summer hit Barça. Above all in terms of running at players. The now Paris Saint-Germain player took players on, drawing the opposition and generating space for Lionel Messi. Barça reacted how they could and signed Ousmane Dembele, but the French international, so far, has not hit the same heights. His long injury and slow adaption meant the effect Neymar had was lost. Now, alongside the hope that Ousmane improves, Valverde considers it necessary to get that quality back in the final third. That's why he's attracted to Willian's electricity. 

For that and for many other reasons. The Brazil forward doesn't just go at players, he also has a brilliant shot -- as Barça saw first hand last season. But if there's something about Willian which Valverde likes especially, it his capacity to sacrifice himself for the team. The Chelsea man is one of those players that helps out in defence as much as is necessary, something to have in mind in a team which has Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho in starting roles. The has been key in providing Willian a chance to dress in Blaugrana: his Portuguese passport will open up a space for another non-EU player in the squad.  

IMMEDIATE PERFORMANCES 

About to turn 30, Willian's age could be considered a handicap. However, Valverde values the experience he has at the top level. Willian would offer immediate performances and he would do so in various positions. He fits in a 4-3-3 as a waide player and can also adapt to a 4-4-2 and a 4-2-3-1, playing deeper, through the middle, left or right. 

Barça already have the 'yes' from the player. Now the tricky part: reaching an agreement with Chelsea. Thibaut Courtois and Eden Hazard also look set to leave Stamford Bridge -- Real Madrid are at the front of the queue -- which would leave the English side without their two references and damage Willian's plan to leave. It seems unlikely the club would let so many star players leave in just a few weeks. Long negotiations could, therefore, be on the horizon. But there's a lot of summer ahead of us... 

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