Since arriving at Stamford Bridge in the final days of the 2013 summer transfer window — after seeing the light, as the song goes, and choosing Blues over Spurs — Willian has been one of the most frequent, most consistent, and most steady contributors to the Chelsea cause.
He famously vanquished multiple other challengers for the right-wing spot in the first few years (including a then much, much worse Mohamed Salah) and even after losing that role to Pedro last year through no fault of his own, he has continued to make an impact whether starting or making a substitute appearance. In fact, he managed to set a new career high in goals last season with 12, a total which he has now matched with his blast past (through?) the usually unbeatable David De Gea last Sunday. That Chelsea failed to hold on to a lead for the manyeth time in recent weeks will bring back memories of the season we shall not name, which was incidentally the previous consensus-best season for Chelsea’s gloriously coiffed no.22.
That goal inspired José Mourinho, the man who brought Willian to the Bridge but now manages against him for the red side of Manchester, to gush all over the former Shakhtar winger and inspire a fresh round of transfer rumors following last summer’s rejections.
“Do you want to talk about Willian? Top, cream of the crop, he’s amazing.”
-José Mourinho; source: ESPN Brasil via M.E.N.
Like the cream of the crop, at 29 years of age, Willian has risen to the top. That’s just one of two recent nicknames given to him, with Brazil national team coach Tite calling him “Foguete” (“Rocket”) after a performance against Ecuador last September. Willian thinks that’s a “cool” nickname, and it’s certainly fitting for when he’s at his pacey, powerful, quick-striking best.
Foguete’s “top dos tops” form has prompted a few quizzical inquires as to why Antonio Conte has not always selected him for the starting lineup, suggesting that this sort of treatment will drive such a valuable player away from the squad. The Chelsea head coach has vehemently defended his decisions, pointing to last year’s title as all the evidence that’s needed. Fortunately, Willian seems to just about agree, and in a recent interview with ESPN Brasil, has also revealed that his commitment to the cause had never wavered.
“Sometimes, when players go through such moments and already were looking to leave the club, they want to leave. I do not. I always knew my place was here.”
Obviously, all players want to play all the time, and that’s the sort of mentality that’s required at the top level, but even with minutes reduced these last couple seasons when compared to the first three — although he’s already exceeded last year’s totals — Willian seems quite happy to continue “killing lions” for Chelsea as long as he’s able and wanted. His current contract will have two years left on it this summer when he turns 30.
“My goal is to stay here at Chelsea — unless Chelsea do not want me anymore, then I have to find another club (laughs) — for many more years, and, if it is possible, even to renew my contract. About this, we have not talked yet. It might happen. I’m adapted [to the club]. I will five years [here] at the end of the season; I’ve won titles and I have the fans’ affection too. I intend to continue here until the end of my contract, to renew, and to continue for more years.”
-Willian; source: Globo via Google Translate
So say we all.