FC Anji Makhachkala have underlined their intent after winning the race for coveted FC Shakhtar Donetsk forward Willian in a deal reportedly worth €35m.
The Brazilian international has signed a long-term contract with Guus Hiddink's side after they triggered his release clause, leaving Shakhtar's Mircea Lucescu to mourn the loss of a player "like a son to me". Lucescu added: "He came to Shakhtar almost as a child and leave us as a 24-year-old man. I told him he would have achieved more with us when we said goodbye."
Willian, an attacking midfielder who can play on the wing, has certainly achieved a lot since moving to Ukraine from SC Corinthians in August 2007 for around €14m. He won the double in his first season and was a key part of the side that lifted the UEFA Cup in 2009, beating SV Werder Bremen 2-1 in extra time in the Istanbul final.
The 2008/09 campaign was barren on the domestic front but, with Willian ever more prominent, the Donetsk outfit have been dominant since, winning three successive league titles and back-to-back Ukrainian Cups. He helped confirm his talent during this season's UEFA Champions League group stage, particularly against Chelsea FC, as Shakhtar helped eliminate the holders.
Willian joins an Anji side with their own European ambitions: they face Hannover 96 in the UEFA Europa League round of 32, with the first leg at home. Hiddink's charges are second to PFC CSKA Moskva, who a Shakhtar team shorn of Willian beat in a friendly on Thursday, in the Russian Premier-Liga ahead of the resumption in March.
© 1998-2014 UEFA. All rights reserved.