When Jose Mourinho takes on a new job, he likes to bring players he is familiar with along for the ride.
When he took the job at Porto, he bought Derlei in the first transfer window, the striker who had scored 21 goals for him the season before at U.D. Leiria, as they overachieved to finish seventh, as well as bringing in Nuno Valente to make the same move.
Ricardo Carvalho played for Mourinho at Porto, before then signing for him at Chelsea and later Real Madrid. Mourinho also brought Paulo Ferreira and Maniche from Porto to Chelsea.
Hernan Crespo played for Mourinho at Chelsea and Inter, while Michael Essien and Lassana Diarra at Chelsea and Real Madrid. Samuel Eto’o was with the manager at Inter Milan and Chelsea, and more recently, Zlatan Ibrahimovic signed for Manchester United after playing for Mourinho at Inter.
The latest player rumoured to make the move from one Mourinho club to another is Willian.
The winger is a popular figure among Chelsea fans after he snubbed a move for rivals Tottenham Hotspur to join them in 2013. Spurs had agreed a figure of £30m with Anzhi Makhachkala and Willian had passed a medical, only for it to be announced the move had been hijacked at the last minute, with the forward preferring Chelsea over the north London club.
The move has been immortalised in the chant Chelsea fans regularly sing, which goes: “The shit from Spurs, they bought his flight, but Willian he saw the light, he got the call from Abramovich, and off he went to Stamford Bridge. He hates Tottenham, he hates Tottenham…”
As soon as Mourinho was appointed as United manager rumours started to circulate that Willian was on his way to Old Trafford.
“Jose is one of the most successful coaches in the world and Manchester United will be stronger with him as manager,” Willian said that summer. “I played some of my best football under Mourinho. He is a special coach and I have a great relationship with him. Winning the Premier League with him was one of the highlights of my career. I was sad things didn’t work out after that.”
Two years later, is appears as though the pair will be reunited, particularly if Antonio Conte stays on as Chelsea manager. Having been frozen out of the starting team by the Italian, Willian hasn’t been shy in letting his feelings known.
When posting a picture on social media of the recent FA Cup win, he edited Conte out of the picture, hiding him behind trophy emojis.
When asked about his feelings on the manager, Willian didn’t go as far as criticising him, but made it clear he had plenty to say about Conte, even if now wasn’t the appropriate time.
“Oh boy. Do you really want me to tell you? Let’s save it for the next interview,” he said.
Mourinho is clearly still an admirer of the player though, even if Conte isn’t. He scored at Old Trafford earlier this season, in United’s 2-1 win, and Mourinho was full of praise for the player at the final whistle.
“Do you want to talk about Willian? Top, cream of the crop, he’s amazing,” he said.
The United manager likes to be surrounded by players he can trust and those he can rely on. Anthony Martial has clearly fallen short of Mourinho’s demands, while Willian is a player the manager would rather have in his team.
Having sold Juan Mata and Nemanja Matic to United in recent years, will Chelsea be willing to let another of their talented players follow in their footsteps? Mourinho will be hoping so.