DUBAI // When Willian left Brazil for the Ukraine in August 2007, he did so having signed a long-term contract with Shakhtar Donetsk.
As many a footballer can attest, six years is a long time in the sport, and although the boy from Sao Paulo has proved worthy of the US$19.6 million (Dh72m) transfer fee Shakhtar paid Corinthians, the window prepares to close once more with him still registered to the Ukrainian champions.
It has been a few months now since the 24 year old confirmed having received offers from Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur. Usually, players keep quiet about such negotiations and openly discussing the matter was construed by some to be a sign of desperation. Willian, however, does not care. "Everyone inside Shakhtar knows I am keen to leave," he told The National while in the UAE with his club.
The player also revealed he has not only exchanged text messages with Tottenham Hotspur's manager Andre Villas-Boas, but he has also talked to the Portuguese coach several times.
"Villas-Boas is a good guy," he said. "We speak on the phone and are constantly in touch."
While Shakhtar's profile has rocketed since 2007 - the club qualified for next month's Uefa Champions League knockout stages at the expense of the reigning champions, Chelsea - for Willian it is clear that the time has arrived for him to seek a new challenge.
"I do not intend to be here any longer after the next [transfer] window," he said.
Although reports surfaced that Willian had returned late to training after the club's winter break, the Brazilian's tone is not threatening towards his employers.
"On the other hand, nowadays things are much different from when I arrived. Shakhtar get more attention, we are in the Champions League," he said.
Shakhtar know the situation and are already planning for life without their mercurial playmaker: they recently signed a ready made replacement in the form of Taison, the Brazilian formerly of Metalist Kharkiv, another Ukrainian club.
"It is no secret that he has arrived to take my position when I leave," Willian said. "Everybody knows this."
When asked whether the compatriots could complement each other, in the case of him remaining another year, Willian said: "It is a possibility, as well."
Taison, who recently turned 25, gained attention when playing for Internacional, the Brazilian team that won the Fifa Club World Cup in 2006 and also competed in the Abu Dhabi-hosted event in 2010.
Performances at Metalist, whom he joined in 2010, also saw him - like Willian - gain admirers at Chelsea, but he was directed towards Shakhtar after the Ukrainian club proved willing to pay a higher transfer fee.
Neither Taison nor Willian, however, have forgotten their roots and the latter's image in Brazil remains closely linked to Corinthians, the defending Copa Libertadores and Club World Cup champions.
"I am still too young, but after playing in Europe, I would definitely like to end my career there," said Willian, who is also hoping to return to Brazil's national squad now there has been a shift in the command.
He has been capped twice by his country but was not listed by Luis Felipe Scolari, Brazil's new coach, for the friendly against England next Wednesday.
His hopes are still alive though. "Whenever there is a change like this, we have a chance to start over," he said.
He knows that if he is to be involved in Brazil's World Cup campaign on home soil next summer, his biggest chance of being called upon lies far from Ukraine.
"It is better to go to Europe to play," he said. "You are much more in evidence there".
Follow us @SprtNationalUAE