Jose Mourinho has explained why Tottenham did not “waste our time” pursuing a deal for Willian over the summer, with Spurs opting against getting involved in a transfer tussle with Arsenal.
An experienced Brazilian forward dropped into the free agent pool after reaching the end of his contract at Chelsea.
The 32-year-old made it clear that his preference was to remain in England, despite sparking talk of interest from Barcelona.
Various landing spots were mooted for the South American, with two fierce rivals said to be keen on taking him to opposing sides of a north London divide.
Willian did end up heading in that direction, as Arsenal put a deal in place, but he has struggled to make the expected impact in new surroundings.
Things might have been different had he been reunited with former Chelsea boss Mourinho at Spurs, but the Portuguese says he was never in the hunt.
“We don’t have money for Willian,” Mourinho said when asked whether he explored the option of signing a player that he knows well.
“We cannot pay the wages that he gets at Arsenal, so I didn’t want to waste our time because we cannot pay these wages.
“He is still dangerous, he is still one of the best players in the Premier League.
“Apart from that, he is a good friend. I have nothing to hide in relation to that. We keep in touch, we keep in contact, we call each other.
“We wish good things to each other. He is my friend and of course he is a very good player.”
Mourinho may have to come up with a plan to contain Willian on Sunday when Tottenham take in a derby date with Arsenal.
Questions are, however, being asked of the Brazilian’s value to the Gunners cause, with it possible that he could be rotated out of Mikel Arteta’s favoured starting XI.
Any tweaks to that system will give Spurs something to think about, but they have been making impressive progress this season and will welcome their neighbours to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium perched at the top of the Premier League table.