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Ex-Anzhi chief: How Chelsea beat Levy to Willian - he locked him away at Spurs base

Former Anzhi Makhachkala director Herman Tkachenko has recalled how they sold Willian to Chelsea ahead of Tottenham.

Now with Arsenal, Willian actually was in London all set to sign for Spurs before Chelsea's intervention, Tkachenko revealed to Sport-Express. Daniel Levy, the Spurs chairman, was undone by his own stubborn negotiating tactics - but also a double-teaming from Chelsea via owner Roman Abramovich and then manager Jose Mourinho.

Willian had only moved from Shakhtar Donetsk to Anzhi that year in 2013, but was made available by the Russians as Premier League clubs circled.

Tkachenko recalled: "Funny story. Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy had closed Willian at the club base!

"He had almost signed a contract with them - in my opinion, he even signed the first sheet. Even passed a medical examination. And Levy was twisting my arm at that moment. He did not want, as usual, to make solidarity payments (to the previous clubs). This was five percent, and he insisted that we split them in half. I said, 'No, you pay them in full'.

"While we were discussing all this with him, I get a message from Willian: 'Jose called me!' Mourinho, by the way, had wanted (Samuel) Eto'o. Here Suleiman (Kerimov, then owner) joined in, and despite the fact that at the end of that season Samuel ended his contract with Anzhi, we found a rather profitable solution.

"And (Roman) Abramovich called me about Willian. And Suleiman, who also wanted Willian to join Chelsea. In general, Levy had no chance. Here is the relationship between Kerimov and Abramovich, and ours with Roman. I didn't give Levy a clear answer, I said over the phone: 'We will think about it'. He hasn't liked me ever since."

Indeed, Tkachenko recalled Levy was so upset he locked Willian in a room at Tottenham's HQ. But Anzhi refused to do business with Spurs due to the brinkmanship Levy had shown.

He continued: "Levy then naturally locked Willian in the room so that he would not escape from the base! But not only the player, but also we did not sign the transfer deal with Tottenham. And this would never have happened under any circumstances. Of course he ended up at Chelsea."

Before last summer's move to Arsenal, in over seven years with Chelsea, Willian won two Premier League titles, two FA Cups, two League Cups and the Europa League.


- updated February 8


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