Willian ‘Rejects’ Latest Chelsea Contract Offer – Arsenal Move Edges Closer

Willian
Willian looks set for a Chelsea exit when his deal expires | Pool/Getty Images

Chelsea winger Willian looks increasingly likely to leave the club this summer, having rejected the club’s most recent effort to retain his services until 2022.

Having impressed with his consistency and professionalism this season, Willian’s injury-enforced absence from the FA Cup final on Saturday was touted as a contributing factor to their heartbreaking 2-1 defeat to Arsenal.

His importance to the team has been underlined by how keen Frank Lampard and the Blues hierarchy have been to keep him beyond the end of his current deal, which expires at the end of the season. The Chelsea boss said at the end of June that the two parties remained in talks over an extension, but the player has stood firm on his demands for a three-year deal – something the board are unwilling to offer.

The Guardian say that this impasse is unlikely to be resolved, and with Chelsea’s Champions League last 16 tie at Bayern on Saturday likely to be their final match of the season (they trail 3-0 from the first leg, play the odds), it’s thought Willian could announce his departure from the club shortly after.

Arsenal are believed to be very keen to sign the 31-year-old, and may be willing to give him the three-year contract that he claims is a deal-breaker no matter where he goes next.

They are believed to be one of two Premier League clubs who have made offers, after the player’s agent Kia Joorabchian confirmed he has five options on the table – with two clubs in Europe and one in MLS giving him plenty to think on.

Andy Robertson, WillianAndy Robertson, Willian
Willian in what could prove to be his final Chelsea game | Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Barcelona aren’t likely to be one despite their prior interest, while mlssoccer.com claim that David Beckham’s Inter Miami – still on the lookout for one designated player – are the Stateside club in the frame.

Let’

Chelsea Keen to Offload Squad Players to Fund Defensive Reinforcements

Frank Lampard
Frank Lampard must clear some space in his squad if he wants more signings | Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images

Chelsea are keen to bring in some new faces to address their defensive woes, but manager Frank Lampard will only be permitted to do so if he offloads some of the current members of the squad.

The Blues conceded a whopping 54 goals in the Premier League this season, more than any other side in the top half, and while some of that was down to tactical mistakes on Lampard’s behalf, plenty of those goals were conceded as a result of poor decisions and mistakes from the players.

Kai HavertzKai Havertz
Chelsea are focusing their efforts on signing Kai Havertz | Pool/Getty Images

As such, a new goalkeeper, centre-back and left-back are all thought to be on the wish list for Lampard, but the boss’ top priority is to push ahead with a deal for Bayer Leverkusen forward Kai Havertz, who is expected to cost close to £90m.

As noted by The Telegraph, Lampard has been given the green light to persevere with that move, but it has left him needing to clear out space in his squad before he can make any further signings.

Chelsea were forced to reject the chance to trigger their buy-back option on Nathan Aké after Manchester City had a bid accepted as they already have four senior centre-backs, although there are doubts over whether Lampard saw Aké as the man to fix his side anyway.

West Ham United’s Declan Rice and Atlético Madrid’s José Giménez are both thought to be in Lampard’s sights, but both deals are expected to be expensive and would only be approved if space in the squad was made.

Jose Maria GimenezJose Maria Gimenez
Gimenez is on Lampard’s radar | Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Emerson is expected to be let go, while Jorginho will also be sold if the right offer arrives, but Lampard will also have to look for a buyer for one of Kurt Zouma, Antonio Rüdiger or Andreas Christensen if he wants to add another fresh face.

Some extra funds will be freed up by the imminent departure of Pedro, and Willian could follow his fellow winger through the exit door as he is yet to sign a contract extension at Stamford Bridge.

When asked whether he knew what Willian’s next move was, Lampard replied: “It is his decision. I have not got that answer. I know the situation from the club’s end.

Willian - Soccer Player for Chelsea and BrazilWillian - Soccer Player for Chelsea and Brazil
Willian’s time at Chelsea could be coming to an end | Visionhaus/Getty Images

“I have a great relationship with Willian, but I actually do not know what that decision is. And if that happens over the next whatever days, as he said, then that will be good for me either way.

“Of course, I am very happy with Willian as he has been brilliant for me this season with his input and work ethic within the squad. But it is his choice and I respect his choice. He has been a great servant for Chelsea if he decides to move on. And if he does decide to move on, then Chelsea moves on as well, and we have to look forward ourselves.”

For more from ?Tom Gott, follow him on ?Twitter!

Let’

FA Cup Final Defeat Does Not Mean Frank Lampard’s First Chelsea Season Was a Failure

Frank Lampard
Chelsea fell to Arsenal in the FA Cup final | Pool/Getty Images

Chelsea were undoubtedly second best in Saturday’s FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal. Some questionable refereeing decisions didn’t help, but the Gunners well and truly deserved to lift the trophy at the end of the day.

The defeat means Frank Lampard will end his first season at Chelsea without a trophy. Well, assuming he can’t mastermind the comeback of the century against Bayern Munich in the Champions League which, let’s be honest, is not going to happen.

The cup final failure has left many rival fans (and even some Chelsea supporters) criticising Lampard for his shortcomings and even stating that the boss’ season has been an unmitigated disaster, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Frank LampardFrank Lampard
Lampard has exceeded expectations this season | TF-Images/Getty Images

If we look back to the departure of talisman Eden Hazard last summer, even the most optimistic of Chelsea fan admitted that the Blues could be in for a rough ride. Chelsea had been unhealthily dependent on the Belgian for a few years at that point, and it was abundantly clear that the team wasn’t actually that good without him.

Lampard was made to cope without Hazard and was banned from replacing him, although the arrival of Christian Pulisic from Borussia Dortmund definitely helped in that regard.

The boss recognised that Chelsea needed rejuvenating, but with his hands tied, he decided that the best (or perhaps only) way to do that was by turning to the academy.

Sure, Chelsea’s academy has been the most successful in England for some time now, but that means nothing at senior level. Last summer, after returning from their loan spells, Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham, Reece James and Fikayo Tomori were all billed as ‘Championship quality’ by most.

Mason Mount, Tammy AbrahamMason Mount, Tammy Abraham
Mount & Abraham have both enjoyed good seasons | Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

The only top-level experience Lampard was able to ‘add’ to the squad came through the returning Kurt Zouma and Michy Batshuayi – the latter of whom has offered next to nothing this season.

The squad he was left with was bad. His only additions were a bunch of kids. He had no money to spend. He had just one year of experience as a manager. Chelsea were destined to be a disaster.

The general consensus around Stamford Bridge was that Lampard’s only task was to keep Chelsea afloat this season. The top four was out of reach, but just try not to finish in the bottom half and then get the rebuild going next summer.

Not only has Lampard achieved that goal, but he has far exceeded expectations. He kept Chelsea competitive (albeit in an underwhelming Premier League season) and led the Blues back to the Champions League by playing an entertaining brand of football. You can compare him to previous managers all you want, but a Chelsea side led by Mount was never meant to be anywhere close to the same level as the side led by Hazard.

FBL-EUR-C3-CHELSEA-ARSENAL-FINAL-TROPHYFBL-EUR-C3-CHELSEA-ARSENAL-FINAL-TROPHY
Hazard helped paper over the cracks under previous managers | OZAN KOSE/Getty Images

Now, that’s not to say that Lampard’s season has been perfect. He has mismanaged situations, made tactical mistakes and failed to adapt to in-game events as fast as most top-flight managers would.

Defensively, his team has been a shambles. It’s not outlandish to suggest that his naivety has left Chelsea exposed at the back, but it’s also fair to say that some abysmal individual performances from his players have thrown him to the wolves at times.

However, that’s all to be expected at this point in his career. It’s similar to how we describe most 18-year-old prospects – all encouraging signs, but some flaws which need improving.

Perhaps a lot of the scepticism towards Lampard’s debut season comes from Chelsea’s infamous revolving door policy. Plenty of bosses before Lampard were only permitted one or two mistakes before being sent packing, so surely the Englishman should have been given the boot by now?

FBL-ENG-PR-CHELSEA-SUNDERLAND-TROPHYFBL-ENG-PR-CHELSEA-SUNDERLAND-TROPHY
Roman Abramovich used to run an infamously strict regime | BEN STANSALL/Getty Images

Is Chelsea’s decision to change their ways a bad thing? Of course not.

Lampard’s arrival signalled the transition to a new era. Roman Abramovich’s preferred ‘win now’ approach was simply not possible, so things changed and Chelsea decided to build for the future.

Chelsea saw Jürgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola struggle in their debut seasons in England, but look how they have developed. They now lead the two best teams in the land, and that’s all because of patience. Chelsea’s approach of ‘win the title, have a player rebellion, finish sixth and go again’ is not how the best teams do things.

Jürgen Klopp, Mike Dean - Referee, Josep GuardiolaJürgen Klopp, Mike Dean - Referee, Josep Guardiola
Klopp & Guardiola were both given time to build something special | Visionhaus/Getty Images

On the pitch, the young players will have time to improve. In the dugout, Lampard and Jody Morris will be given the chance to figure things out. At board level, Petr ?ech has the opportunity to grow as a director. The outlook on football has changed.

Those who have called for Lampard’s head to roll are still looking at the old Chelsea – the Chelsea who sack managers for breathing in the wrong direction. We’re in a new era now, and Lampard is the perfect man for the job.

Stage one: complete.

For more from ?Tom Gott, follow him on ?Twitter!

Let’

FA Cup Final Becomes Most Watched Football Match of the Season

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
A record audience tuned in to see Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang drop the FA Cup trophy | Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Chelsea’s 2-1 defeat to Arsenal in the 2020 FA Cup final attracted the largest viewing figures for any football match this season.

Professional football was suspended in England in mid-March following the coronavirus pandemic and returned in June. However, all games since the sport’s resumption have been held behind closed doors, devoid of fans.

Reece James, Pierre-Emerick AubameyangReece James, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Arsenal and Chelsea played the first ever FA Cup final held behind closed doors | Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Arsenal prevailed over London rivals Chelsea in a 2-1 win on Saturday in a Wembley Stadium which has a maximum capacity of 90,000. Aside from a limited number of journalists and broadcasters, the two Premier League sides played out the final of the world’s oldest cup competition in front of empty stands.

With supporters unable to be at the ground, fans were forced to cheer on their teams watching from home. The final was available on free-to-air BBC and the subscription channel BT Sport in England.

According to the BBC, their coverage of the match was watched by a peak audience of 8.2m across all platforms. This represents a 46.1% audience share and surpasses the 7.2m who tuned in for the semi-final clash between Manchester United and Chelsea as the largest viewership for a football match in the 2019/20 season.

Tammy Abraham, Harry MaguireTammy Abraham, Harry Maguire
Chelsea defeated Manchester United 3-1 in the semi-final watched by 7.2m viewers | Pool/Getty Images

The eight most-watched games of this campaign were shown on the BBC, and the top seven were FA Cup ties. The remaining fixture from that top eight marked a moment of broadcasting history.

In the unprecedented circumstances football found itself after a three-month hiatus, every Premier League game was scheduled to be broadcast live in England. The BBC aired four top-flight games for the first time since the competition’s inception in 1992, and their third fixture broke another viewing record.

Southampton’s surprise 1-0 win over Manchester City on 5 July attracted a peak audience of 5.7m, becoming the most-watched Premier League match in the history of the competition according to the BBC.

Let’

The World’s Most Valuable Sports Teams in 2020 – Ranked

Zinedine Zidane, Manager of Real Madrid
Real Madrid are one of the most valuable teams worldwide | Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

It’s been a bit of a weird year for sports teams of all kinds around the world, but there’s still a crazy amont of money in sport.

As they do every year, the people over at Forbes have put together a list of the most valuable sports teams across the globe, and a solid number of football teams managed to make their way into the rankings.

Let’s take a look at the top 50 teams – we’ll dive deeper into the ones that we care about over here.

Maintaining the same value as last year is Arsenal, who have fallen five spots down to 47th.

While it hasn’t been the best year on the pitch for Arsenal, inconsistent performances and sacking manager Unai Emery haven’t had too much of an impact financially.

Thanks to their FA Cup final triumph, the Gunners will have the chance to build on that in next year’s Europa League.

Just like Arsenal, Chelsea have also dropped five places while still retaining their same value from 2019.

The Blues had planned to have a busy year, with a brand new stadium complex on the cards, only for Chelsea to allow their planning permission to expire while they evaluate the current financial landscape.

Frank Lampard managed to guide Chelsea back to the Champions League, ensuring their income won’t take much of a hit over the coming year.

Yet again, City retained their value from 2019, but growth from teams from other sports has seen them drop nine spots down to 34th.

City’s financial power is no secret, and they flexed their muscle last summer by striking huge deals for Rodri and João Cancelo, and there’ll probably be a fair bit of money spent this year too.

Pep Guardiola’s side managed to get their Champions League ban overturned, ensuring they can remain competitive for years to come, although they did have to swallow a hefty fine.

Despite no drop in value, Bayern Munich find themselves falling from 17th in 2019 to 24th in 2020.

Being so far down in any rankings is an alien concept for Bayern, who have been overwhelmingly dominant in the Bundesliga in recent years.

Perennial favourites to win the Champions League, their value would enjoy a tidy rise if they can get their hands on the trophy for the first time since 2013.

Despite dropping from sixth to tenth, Manchester United remain the third most valuable football team in the world.

It’s that kind of financial power which has given Ole Gunnar Solskjaer some big plans for the summer transfer window, and qualifying for the Champions League will only help United strengthen, both on and off the pitch.

The Red Devils hope to be back on track after a few years of turmoil, so don’t be surprised to see them climb higher up this list in 2021.

Dropping down four spots are Barcelona, who still sit second on football’s rich list.

There was no drop in value for Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez and co. this year, but the impact of the coronavirus outbreak might have a pretty rough impact on Barcelona’s finances for the 2021 rankings.

It’s been a frustrating year for the Catalan club, who need to win the Champions League to finish the campaign with any silverware. No pressure.

Sitting atop football’s financial Mount Olympus for the second straight year are Real Madrid.

Los Blancos spent big money last summer, recruiting Eden Hazard, Luka Jovi?, Éder Militão, Ferland Mendy and Rodrygo Goes, and their reward was yet another La Liga title.

The spending might be a little calmer this time around, with Zinedine Zidane instead focusing on selling some of the club’s fringe players.

For more from ?Tom Gott, follow him on ?Twitter!

Let’