Anzhi Makhachkala's new Brazilian midfielder Willian said he was eager to test his skills in the Russian league after his €35m transfer deal from Shakhtar Donetsk.
The former Shakhtar playmaker arrived for training with Anzhi at their mid-season camp in Marbella, Spain, over the weekend, after the third most expensive transfer in Russian football history and the biggest deal ever between two teams from former members of USSR.
But he strongly denied rumours that he came to cash-rich Anzhi seeking big money. "Shakhtar offered me to stay with them at any price," Sport Express quoted Willian as saying. "I've earned quite a lot of money in Donetsk. With Shakhtar I also won a set of titles not only in Ukraine but in Europe also. I felt comfortable there. But the time for change has come."
The 24-year-old Brazil international added that he was happy to join Anzhi, describing the rise of the club an ambitious and a long-term project. The transfer deal lies behind Zenit St Petersburg's double swoop for Porto's Brazilian forward Hulk for €60m and Benfica's Belgian midfielder Axel Witsel for €40m in Russia's biggest ever transfers.
"My conversation with Anzhi owner Suleiman Kerimov decided everything," Willian said. "After that I decided to join Anzhi. The club management are not only thinking about short-term gains, they really want to create a serious football infrastructure in Dagestan, to lift the game in the republic to a higher level."
Anzhi, based in the capital of the Caucasus republic of Dagestan and owned by oil and metal tycoon Suleiman Kerimov, have pulled off a series of major transfer deals, including Cameroonian star striker Samuel Eto'o and Brazilian veteran Roberto Carlos.
They are managed by experienced Dutch coach Guus Hiddink and are currently second in the Russian league and in the last 16 of the UEFA Europa League.