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I won't hold a grudge if Willian opts to leave for Arsenal, says Lampard

 

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Decision time: Chelsea ace Willian is understood to be close to agreeing a move to Arsenal

Decision time: Chelsea ace Willian is understood to be close to agreeing a move to Arsenal

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Warming up: Philippe Coutinho

Warming up: Philippe Coutinho

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Decision time: Chelsea ace Willian is understood to be close to agreeing a move to Arsenal

Frank Lampard insists he will have no hard feelings if Willian leaves Chelsea.

Brazil forward Willian is understood to be closing in on a move to Arsenal, with his Stamford Bridge contract expiring after the Blues' Champions League exploits.

Willian will miss tonight's last-16 second-leg tie at Bayern Munich with an ankle issue and could have already played his last Chelsea game should he leave west London as anticipated.

Lampard insisted Chelsea have "done everything we can" to try to keep the 70-cap Brazilian at Stamford Bridge, but the 31-year-old is understood to have rejected the Blues' offers of a new two-year contract.

"It actually doesn't matter about disappointment from any party in this situation," said Lampard. "I haven't got an answer for you (if Willian will leave) first and foremost, because Willian remains our player at the moment.

"He's injured for Saturday, and he was injured for the (FA) Cup final. He would have given everything to play.

"I know Willian well, I've seen him, he's carried this injury a little bit from the latter part of the restart. In terms of being disappointed, certainly as a club I think we have done everything we can, and mine and his relationship is really close.

"I would have no feeling of disappointment if he does move on.

"I've played with him, coached him, he's a fantastic man and a fantastic player. I think he will feel like that about Chelsea, I'll leave him to say his own words.

"But I don't want anyone to try and find a negative attitude, because the club have acted very well in this as well.

"I don't have the answer, if he moves on I personally would wish him well. And that's kind of where we're at now."

Willian had held out for a three-year contract extension at Chelsea, but the Blues were determined not to offer more than a two-season deal.

The former Shakhtar Donetsk winger is understood to be closing in on a switch to the Gunners, that would bring to a close seven years at Stamford Bridge.

Lampard admitted Chelsea will simply have to cope should Willian opt to join one of the Blues' London and Premier League rivals.

"When a player's out of contract they have the freedom and the right to go and play wherever they want, so we have to understand that," said Lampard.

"If they stay in the league and it's a player of Willian's quality, for instance, then they will go and contribute to that team.

"I think we have to accept that and move on, I've got no problems with that. That's his right.

"I think he leaves a hole as a player that's been here for seven seasons, and performed as part of some very successful teams.

"When I came in for this year and we had a very young group and young talents coming back after loans, we had some transitional elements to the whole group. And Willian was one you looked at and relied upon in terms of experience and quality, and he's shown me that all year.

"But he has his own decisions to make. And we as a club will always want to move forward.

"Eden Hazard left last year, but the club continues. You try and work in a forward direction, which I think we have in many ways. And that remains the same whatever player will leave."

Kingsley Coman will be missing for Bayern tonight due to a muscle injury.

The 24-year-old France winger missed training yesterday and will sit out tonight's last-16 second leg encounter in Munich.

Bayern boss Hansi Flick admitted he must now choose between Ivan Perisic and Philippe Coutinho to replace Coman, with the hosts boasting a 3-0 lead from the first leg.

"Kingsley Coman is not available, we have two great options in his position with Perisic and Coutinho," said Flick. "Perisic is a little more dynamic in attack, but Coutinho is better on the ball."

Bayern Munich

Chelsea

Champions League - Round of 16, Second Leg

Allianz Arena, Tonight, 8.00pm

Belfast Telegraph