Jose Mourinho has insisted Tottenham were never in the running to sign Willian after he left Chelsea because they could not rival the wages Arsenal were offering to the Brazilian.
The pair worked together at Stamford Bridge and the Blues notably beat Spurs to the signing of the winger from Anzhi Makhachkala back in 2013.
Willian, 32, has endured a slow start to life at the Emirates since he agreed a three-year deal in August, but is still expected to feature in Sunday’s north London derby at Tottenham.
“We don’t have money for Willian,” Mourinho said. “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.
Today is the start of a new challenge at the next stage of my career!
I’m excited about the Arsenal project and am grateful to the management team at the club for all their efforts and their trust in me. pic.twitter.com/n4CnuHc4xJ
— Willian (@willianborges88) August 14, 2020
“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 says the feeling at Tottenham ahead of this derby compared to the meeting in July is very different.
When Toby Alderweireld’s 81st-minute header sealed a 2-1 victory over Arsenal during the summer, both clubs were languishing in mid-table.
This time around Spurs are top of the Premier League and unbeaten in the division since the opening day.
“It is a little bit different because we want the points and we are not just like, we want to beat Arsenal because to beat Arsenal is the only good thing we can give to our fans,” Mourinho added.
“It happened last season when we played Arsenal in the last part of the season. It was about winning against Arsenal to give something good, to have a good feeling.
“In this moment, we also look to the table and we are in a good position, fighting for positions in the top part of the table.
“But we never forget the fact that there are historical rivalries and what it means for the fans.
We are pleased to confirm we shall be opening our doors to 2,000 fans at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for the first time since March for our Premier League clash with Arsenal on Sunday 6 December.
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) November 27, 2020
“Even for people that were not born at Tottenham, and many of us are in this situation, when you arrive at the club you understand the culture, you learn the culture and you share the values with the fans.”
Harry Kane knows what this fixture means more than most having progressed from Spurs’ academy – after a brief stint with Arsenal originally – to score 10 times against the Gunners.
An unspecified injury saw the striker ruled out of Thursday’s 3-3 draw with LASK, but he is set to return on Sunday.
“He had a little problem,” Mourinho said. “He was not available. It was not like I wanted to protect him. He had a problem but it’s the kind of problem that I can say I expect him to play.”