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CHELSEA HOPE WILLIAN FITS THE BILL

Christopher Davies looks at work permit red tape and why moving to England helps Brazil internationals

WILLIAN HAS HIS WORK VISA HEARING ON WEDNESDAY…HE’LL OBVIOUSLY GET IT, WON’T HE?
In order to work in the UK, most citizens from outside Switzerland and the EU plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein are required to meet a certain number of criteria. Footballers are no different from anyone else in this respect. To play in a league in the UK, ie the Barclays Premier League, the player must have participated in at least 75 per cent of his national team’s senior competitive internationals during the last two years. His national team must be in the top 70 of the FIFA rankings, which obviously Brazil are. The problem is Willian has won only two senior caps. Failure to meet these criteria results in automatic rejection…

SO WILLIAN WON’T BE GRANTED A WORK PERMIT, THEN?
There appears to be a UK Borders Agency rule that, like in the Army, covers the rules that aren’t in the rules. When Philippe Coutinho, also a Brazilian, signed for Liverpool last January from Inter-Milan, he was granted a work permit despite his lack of international experience. A sort of special case rule. Worst case scenario, if the work permit is refused it goes to appeal and it will be ratified by a panel comprising representatives of English footballers stakeholders and three independent representatives. Football writers David Lacey and Brian Glanville have been on these panels.

DO OTHER COUNTRIES HAVE THIS RED TAPE?
No, like driving on the wrong side of the road or, as Arsène Wenger would say, having milk in tea, it is essentially British. This makes it easier for other countries to sign promising young players, particularly from South America. FC Porto have made it almost an art form.

HAS ENGLISH FOOTBALL LOST ANYONE IN PARTICULAR BECAUSE OF ALL THIS?
Hugo Sánchez, Mexico’s greatest ever goalscorer, joined Atlético Madrid, Ronaldo signed for for PSV, Gabriel Batistuta went to Fiorentina and Javier Zanetti chose Inter Milan. So yes.

CHELSEA HAVE A SIMILAR PROBLEM WITH BERTRAND TRAORE, DON’T THEY?
Yes, Traore is a Burkina Faso international and is on trial with Chelsea. He is in the UK on a student visa – the midfielder turns 18 on the September 6. If he is granted a work permit the Blues will offer Traore professional forms. The good news is that Burkina Faso are in the top 50 of FIFA’s average ranking over the past two years. The bad news is that Traore has not been a regular international since 2011 – hardly surprising given his age. Traore will almost certainly not be given a work permit so it will be up to an appeals panel to decide whether he is a special case…that he can “enhance” English football. If he doesn’t, it is the safest of safe bets a club in a country with less rigid regulations will snap him up.

BACK TO WILLIAN, WHY DOES HE HAVE ONLY TWO BRAZIL CAPS? HE HAS ALWAYS IMPRESSED FOR SHAKHTAR DONETSK IN EUROPE.
His two caps in 2011 were when Mano Menezes was coach. Big Phil Scolari has overlooked the winger. There seems to be a almost a policy for the Seleção not to choose players playing in Eastern Europe, with the exception of Hulk. And his form with Zenit St Petersburg means he is struggling to maintain his place in the squad. Domestic football in Ukraine and Russia receives little coverage or publicity in Brazil, so it’s almost a question of out of sight, out of mind. It will be interesting to see what happens to Bernard, a rising star of Brazilian football and a supersub in the Confederations Cup, who recently left Atlético Mineiro for Shakhtar.

WHAT ABOUT FERNANDINHO WHO HAS JOINED MANCHESTER CITY?
Like Willian, Fernandinho – they were team-mates at Shakhtar – made his first international appearance in 2011 and has five caps, but has not played for the Selecão this year.

SO WILLIAN HOPES PLAYING IN THE BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE WILL RAISE HIS PROFILE BACK HOME?
Yes. But in fairness Willian, Shakhtar were very successful during the four years he was with them. In his time in Ukraine, Shakhtar won three league titles, two Ukranian Cups, two Super Cups and the 2009 UEFA Cup.

WHILE THIS MAY NOT BE A VINTAGE BRAZIL SIDE, BIG PHIL IS NOT EXACTLY HARD UP FOR FORWARDS, IS HE?
No. He has called up 72 players in the past year and seems to favour those playing in Brazil. Nine of his 23-man squad for the Confederations Cup came from the Brazilian top flight — a remarkably high figure given how many Brazilians play in the top leagues in Europe. The extremely consistent Ramires of Chelsea was one who didn’t make the Confederations Cup squad.

But Scolari does have Neymar, Fred, who averages a goal every other game, Luís Fabiano, Leandro Damião, Sandro, Luis Gustavo, Diego Costa plus Hulk with Ronaldinho, Pato and Kaká waiting in the wings for a recall. Both Willian and Fernandinho face a battle to be part of the host’s squad for the 2014 World Cup.

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