Many of you are familiar with Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala after Liverpool's Europa tie with them last year. In recent years, they've been one of Russia's big-money clubs, bringing in big-name talents like Samuel Eto'o for big money. Last January, they made another big splash by enticing Brazilian starlet Willian from Shaktar Donetsk, prying him away from the Ukranian giants for a reported £30 million.
Recently, however, things haven't been nearly as rosy for Anzhi. Earlier in the summer, there were grumblings that Hulk, Axel Witsel, Willian, and others weren't entirely happy with life in Russia, with Hulk in particular having been subjected to racist displays during the past season. Then came last week's bombshell that their owner had taken a significant financial hit thanks to rough times in his primary business, and that as a result, virtually every big name on the club would be made available in an effort to reduce wages.
Rumors have already swirled on clubs like Manchester City and Chelsea circling around Willian, and who could blame them. The Brazilian is an absolute wonder of a player: lightning-quick, can play anywhere in the attacking midfield band, and is equally deft with creative passing and shooting. The gravy on this one is that he actually has a solid defensive work rate as well, as displayed against good competition in previous Champions League campaigns with Shaktar. Willian is a special player, and the fact that Felipe Scolari has only capped him twice for Brazil is such a shame it's nearly criminal. If you want a player with that "moxie" I talked about awhile back, Willian has it in spades.
Now, however, reports are emerging that Liverpool will make their own bid for the 25 year old. While it was easy to dismiss some of the early rumors about the bid as simple dreaming and rumor mongering, the Guardian has now run with the story, closely followed by a similar report in the Times. Both place Liverpool's bid in the £30 million range, which makes sense as it'd allow Anzhi to recoup their transfer fee. If Sachin Nakrami and Tony Barrett are reporting it, you can bet that there's at least some fire behind the smoke.
Obviously, there's a long ways to go before a bid turns in to a signed deal. Further complicating the matter is that Barrett is reporting that Tottenham is also considering a bid for Willian. They could be a more attractive destination for Willian, as they'd offer at least a modicum of European football through the Europa League, while Liverpool obviously cannot for this season. That said, signing on with Liverpool wouldn't be without it's own attractions, as his signing could complete the formation of an absolutely divine attack, with he, Daniel Sturridge, Phillipe Coutinho, and (just maybe!) Luis Suarez forming an incredibly fluid and talented group for defenders to deal with.
Given Anzhi's reported financial state and Liverpool's desire to make a statement signing, this one has every chance of moving quickly if there's serious legs to it. The club getting some extra transfer funds and the clearing of Stewart Downing's wages could certainly help them in their ability to close this quickly if that's what they want to do. In the meantime, here's some highlights in order to help you learn some about the club's new target.