Less than a full day had passed from Chelsea lifting the FA Cup trophy at Wembley, when Willian decided to publicly burn his bridges with manager Antonio Conte.
It was a simple yet complex act, covering up Conte in the photo posted to Instagram, easy and quick in execution yet surprising enough to prompt a few questions regarding the motives behind it. Was the relationship between coach and player this fractured? Why behave so unprofessionally? And most importantly, will this be the final act of Willian’s career at Chelsea?
We may never have the answers for these first two questions, even though Willian previously hinted he was not so satisfied with Conte’s leadership. But the latter is something we will likely find out this summer as the Manchester United rumors re-emerge.
Another reason why all this was a bit surprising was that even though Willian was not an out-and-out starter, the only player ahead of him in the attacking midfielder pecking order was Eden Hazard. As Conte switched from a 3-4-3 to a 3-5-2, opportunities for all the players not named Hazard dwindled in attack, but Willian still managed to make more appearances than any other Chelsea player and set a new career high with 13 goals (and 12 assists). In fact, he even won Chelsea’s Player’s Player of the Year award.
Still, he wanted more.
“I was happy with my performances throughout the season. I played very well. I always try to do my best. I always try to work hard. Sometimes to stay on the bench is difficult.”
“I respect the decision of the manager who thinks that and I have nothing more to say about my club. I now want to focus here on the national team, on the World Cup. I am ready for it.”
“I had a good season with Chelsea, winning the best player of the season for my team, I was very happy with that. The important thing is to follow up. I have to keep getting better.”
-Willian; Source: ESPN
Approaching the “dreaded” 30, Willian’s impatience is understandable. The prime of his career is drawing to a close, and while he’s a key player for Brazil and Chelsea, that is unlikely to last for much longer.
Similarly, time may be running out for him to switch to Manchester United, so if that reunion with Jose Mourinho is to happen, it’s likely to happen this summer. Willian has two years left on his current contract; a transfer for a decent fee (or perhaps a Martial swap) could be the win-win-win we’re all looking for.
A lot that is still conjecture at this point however, especially with very few things settled at Chelsea as far as next season is concerned. So we shall just have to wait and see, for now.