Chelsea midfielder Willian has admitted that Jose Mourinho made an attempt to lure him away from Stamford Bridge soon after taking charge at Manchester United but noted he had no intentions of leaving Chelsea at the time.
Mourinho in similar fashion to the business done with Romelu Lukaku this summer, snatched Willian from under the nose of one of his rivals – Tottenham Hotspur – for a fee of £30 back in 2014. The Brazilian, ever since, has been a slick, energetic, disciplined force in attacking midfield, making 181 appearances overall and claiming a career best total of 12 goals last season.
And according to the 29-year-old, he received a call from the Portuguese soon after he became United manager but, following talks with his agent, ultimately refused and decided to remain at Stamford Bridge.
“There were a few conversations with my agent. I worked with Mourinho and I became his friend as well,” he said.
“He 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.
“Manchester came to me, they talked with my agent, but nothing happened, because Chelsea would not negotiate me in any way and I’m very happy at Chelsea.”
The two enjoy a friendly relationship and you can see why. Willian, after all, is a quintessentially Mourinho midfielder, promising a rapid work rate and a piercing, technically gifted style on the ball, blessed with an acute awareness of what surrounds him and, more often than not, ability to pick out the right pass. And he has good reason to hold Mourinho in high esteem. He took him from the periphery of European football in Ukraine and Russia and provided him with a platform to establish himself on the very highest stages.
And when asked how Antonio Conte – a man who has come to blows with Mourinho in more ways than one since arriving in England – differs from the Portuguese behind the scenes, he noted: “They are very different. Everyone has their way of working. Mourinho is a coach who likes more the ball practice, works the ball possession and makes short games,”
“Conte likes to work the tactical and the physical part. Every coach has his way of working. Mourinho is a fantastic coach and won everything wherever he went.
“Conte is a fantastic coach too, because he won everything at Juventus and has already won the Premier League in his first year with Chelsea. Each one has his merits.
“[Conte] is a coach who works hard every day, works a lot of tactics and the physical part. In the last season, he transformed our team when he changed the formation to 3-4-3. We managed to assimilate very well what he asked us in the training sessions and things worked out.”