Liverpool, and Tottenham Hotspur, lost out to Chelsea 10 years ago when they completed the signing of Willian from Anzhi Makhachkala

Liverpool will be keeping a watching eye on Premier League investigations into Manchester City and Everton for potential financial rule breaches for varying reasons.

With regards to City, it could impact their Premier League title win at the Reds’ expense in 2013/14, amongst others, with punishments affecting them in future seasons also possible. Meanwhile, when it comes to Everton, Kopites are also understandably conscious of the fate of their local rivals, amid suggestions of possible points deductions, and what it could mean for their ongoing stay in the English top-flight.

Yet, they are not the only cases that could be of interest to those of a Liverpool persuasion, with it confirmed back in August that the Premier League is also investigating potential financial rule breaches by Chelsea.

The Times have since reported that the investigation is into secret transfer-related payments made by Chelsea during the Roman Abramovich era, which includes the scrutiny of financial transactions around the signings of Willian – who was a Liverpool transfer target at the time – and Samuel Eto’o in the summer of 2013.

The pair’s transfers to Stamford Bridge from Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala were flagged up by Chelsea’s present owners, following the Todd Boehly-Clearlake Capital consortium’s takeover of the club last year, with the Times reporting that financial records indicate that payments may have been made to “Russian entities” that were separate to any transfer fee.

They also claim that at least one alleged payment to a player’s family is also under scrutiny, alongside payments to Russian entities and at least six offshore companies. The alleged payments are said to run into seven figures.

Willian joined Chelsea in a £30m deal in August 2013, having only joined Anzhi from Shakhtar Donetsk for the same fee the previous January. However, Liverpool had actually tried to sign the Brazilian from the Russian outfit first, before first Tottenham Hotspur and then Chelsea swooped in.

Anzhi had transfer-listed their entire squad following a financial restructure, and keen to take advantage and with the Reds willing to match the £30m asking fee, then-manager Brendan Rodgers had even set captain Steven Gerrard on the charm offensive to help bring the winger to Anfield. Unfortunately for the Northern Irish coach, his skipper would be unsuccessful.

“The quest for William became more urgent. Brendan and the club hoped I could convince him,“ Gerrard recalled in his 2015 autobiography. “I also knew that if we got Willian, and the club were ready to spend £30m, it would show Luis (Suarez) we meant business.

“I followed the usual routine when approaching a star player we wanted to sign. Instead of calling him directly I always sent a text. It seemed more respectful and allowed the player to read my message at a time when it suited him best. A cold call felt wrong.

“I slipped into the groove with Willian. I said hello and hoped he didn’t mind me contacting him directly. I stressed how much I admired him as a player and then, having mentioned the fact that I knew Liverpool were speaking to his agent, I used the standard line: ‘If you need to chat or ask any questions I’m available at any time’.

“It was the opening move in a familiar game. The reply came in and the same old conversation started. Willian thanked me and he said the usual, along the lines of, ‘I’d love to play with you, Steven, blah-blah-blah, but there are other clubs I need to talk to as well’.

“I knew Spurs and Chelsea were also very keen on Willian. So I answered him and said, of course, I understood the situation.

“But I then went in with my sales pitch. ‘I think Liverpool would be a great move for you. The fans are amazing, the history is there and we’re building a good team. You could do something great here – and we’d love to have you’

“The next text from Willian was so obvious I could have written it for him even before I read it. He again said that it would be great to play in the same team as me but, ‘I’m not sure Liverpool can give me the Champions League’.

“There was no disputing it. I could not guarantee Champions League football with Liverpool to Willian or any of the other dozens of players I had contacted over the years.”

Rodgers was understandably left frustrated, even if Willian’s desire for Champions League football could not be faulted.

“Over the course of the summer, we have been very ambitious in our attempts to try to get in players to improve the team,” the Northern Irishman said when it looked like the winger was off to White Hart Lane.

“Some might say too ambitious but this is Liverpool Football Club – we are trying to get the best players that we possibly can. If we can’t get them in, we just have to move on. We’ve got 11 days to go, we have to do everything we possibly can.

“It hasn’t changed; if you’re going to climb the league, you have to have quality and you have to get the best players you possibly can into your club to help you climb. That’s our aim.

“Of course if you don’t get the player you want, there’s always that initial disappointment but you can’t dwell on it. There’s still a chunk of the window left.

“We’ve done some business early on in the window, which was very good. Now if we can finish off in these remaining days and get some players in that can help us, it would end a very good window for us.”

In a further interview, he said: “It’s disappointing because this was a player who would have been perfect for us. It wasn’t a football [decision] and I don’t really want to go into it… that’s for us as a club really.

“The bottom line is he hasn’t come here for whatever reason and we move on. We identify the targets and then try and get the deal done financially. That’s how it was. The club has pushed financially as hard as they felt they could but it wasn’t to be.”

Having decided Liverpool wasn’t for him, Willian underwent a medical at Tottenham ahead of a £30m deal but there was to be a twist in the tale as Chelsea swooped in to sign him under the nose of their London rivals to the delight of their fans and disgust of Spurs chairman Daniel Levy.

The Brazilian had wanted to join Chelsea but, with no other offer on the table, travelled to North London in a van for a medical instead. However, there he was met by his agent Kia Joorabchian and told a switch to Stamford Bridge was on after all after Abramovich contacted his compatriot and fellow oligarch Suleyman Kerimov – the owner of Anzhi – to hijack the deal and persuade him to sell him the player instead.

Tottenham officials were left furious as Willian had to spend another eight hours at Spurs lodge before completing his move to Chelsea, with club sources at the time claiming Levy was incandescent and there was a firm belief in the Tottenham camp that Chelsea did not truly want Willian, and only moved for him to prevent former manager Andre Villas-Boas from constructing a squad to challenge them in the Premier League.

Also believing Willian had no say in the transfer – that it was down purely to Abramovich, Kerimov and the player’s advisers – salt was rubbed in Tottenham wounds when Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho was quick to mock them in his next press conference when quizzed on the imminent transfer.

“That’s the danger of medicals before contracts,” the Portuguese cheekily teased. “But at the same time if you do the contract then the medical after, sometimes you can have a problem by signing a player with problems. So you have to do the medical before, but the best thing to do is to do the medical in secret.

“Do the medical in secret. If the player is fine, you can sign him; if the player is not fine, you don’t destroy his career by saying to the world the player has some problems.

“So you protect the situation, so you do it in secret, and after that when you sign the contract with the club and with the player you say: ‘Done’.

“So when we do it and we make it public, sometimes you don’t make it, sometimes you guys [the media], you have great sources and find everything, but that’s the risk.”

“We have to do a medical!” Mourinho then added to the laughter of journalists in the room when asked when he expected the deal to be done.

For the record, Willian maintains Chelsea was also his desired choice and signed for the Londoners on August 25, 2013.

“The situation was… complicated. Well, not complicated actually. It was more… unusual,” Willian told FourFourTwo when reflecting on the move back in 2017. “When I came to London, there were other clubs interested in my football: Liverpool, Tottenham as well as Chelsea.

“I was just waiting for the negotiations to be completed. My agent was talking to the clubs. I was just waiting for the decision.

“In the end, I ended up going to Chelsea. When I understood they were really keen to sign me, I said my decision was made. I wanted to go to Chelsea.”

He would double down on such a stance when talking to Premier League Brasil earlier this year.

“I went to London and Liverpool and Tottenham were interested,” he recalled. “I was negotiating with both, not Chelsea. And in my heart the dream was to go to Chelsea.

“Proposals came from both of them and, as I wanted to stay in London, I decided that I’d go to Tottenham. Chelsea made an offer and I didn’t think twice. It was something I really wanted, with all due respect to Tottenham, who are also a great club, but my dream was to play for Chelsea.”

The Times have reported that there is no suggestion that either Willian or Eto’o had any knowledge of separate payments when completing their transfers to Chelsea 10 years ago.

But while Liverpool had already seemingly lost out in the race for the Brazilian’s signature at the time of Chelsea’s own swoop, its involvement in the Premier League’s ongoing financial investigation could shed new light on what was already a rather controversial transfer saga 10 years ago.

And while the Reds are unlikely to now be overly concerned themselves at the circumstances which resulted in Willian ending up at Stamford Bridge rather than Anfield back in 2013, they may well at least be curious to see what happens next to Chelsea and what sort of punishment they could potentially face as the Premier League’s financial investigation continues.

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