Willian is edging closer to leaving Chelsea on a free after rejecting the club’s latest attempts to persuade him to sign a new two-year deal and has held talks over a move to Arsenal.
The winger has been unable to reach agreement with Chelsea over fresh terms because of his demands for a three-year extension and is increasingly likely to leave after the second leg of the last-16 Champions League tie against Bayern Munich on Saturday.
Although Willian is expected to delay a decision on his future until after that game, the chances of a breakthrough in negotiations with Chelsea are receding, boosting Arsenal’s hopes of signing the 31-year-old.
Frank Lampard has repeatedly said he wants to keep Willian, even though Chelsea have strengthened their attack with the signings of Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech and remain in talks with Bayer Leverkusen over Kai Havertz.
However Chelsea’s board do not want to hand a three-year deal to the Brazil international, who missed his side’s defeat by Arsenal in the FA Cup final with an achilles injury.
Kia Joorabchian, Willian’s agent, claimed last week that his client had offers from five clubs – two in the Premier League, two in Europe and one in Major League Soccer.
It is understood Barcelona are a highly unlikely destination despite recent reports linking them with the player.
Willian is settled in London and has been targeted by Arsenal, who are willing to offer a three-year deal and have Europa League football.
Lampard’s hunt for defensive reinforcements is likely to depend on Chelsea making space in their squad.
It is understood they did not activate their buy-back option for Nathan Aké, who is set to join Manchester City from Bournemouth, because they already have four centre-backs.
Chelsea are interested in West Ham’s Declan Rice and have been linked with Atlético Madrid’s José Giménez, and Lampard wants Leicester’s Ben Chilwell as his left-back.
However the manager is likely to need to offload Kurt Zouma, Andreas Christensen or Antonio Rüdiger before bringing in a new centre-back.
Fikayo Tomori, an academy graduate, is not believed to be for sale.
Lampard could also raise funds by finding a buyer for the Italy midfielder Jorginho, and he is not convinced by Marcos Alonso or Emerson Palmieri at left-back. Emerson has been targeted by Juventus and Internazionale.
Chelsea are 3-0 down against Bayern and will be without César Azpilicueta and Christian Pulisic, who suffered hamstring injuries against Arsenal. Pedro, who is joining Roma, is also unavailable after dislocating a shoulder.