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Willian loves Chelsea, but does not rule out exit — report

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Chelsea v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

A staple of Chelsea starting lineups for three years, Brazilian attacker Willian lost his spot under unfortunate circumstances last season, and after rejoining the squad he was unable to dislodge his replacement, Pedro. While he’s played in almost every single game since — in fact, he’s made an appearance in 51 of the last 52 competitive games under Antonio Conte, including the final 32 to finish out last season — he’s started less than half of them (24 of the 52).

According to Brazilian news outlet UOL, it’s this relative lack of first-team minutes that “may” force Willian to push for a way out of Chelsea, perhaps as early as January. UOL’s unnamed sources claim that Antonio Conte is also a “factor”, forcing the 29-year-old to be "very patient" with the Italian. However, the report also claims that Willian's relationship with the coach is great, that he loves the club, and he and his family are very much settled in London.

In any case, it sounds, smells and looks like one of those typical World Cup-year exit rumours, with a player worried about a spot in his national team. However, Willian’s place in the Selecao is cemented at this point — he’s been called up to every squad since November 2013 and has failed to make an appearance in just 3 of the 54 games since (he was even named captain just a few weeks ago in the friendly against Japan!). And while he’s not a starter at Chelsea these days, and the switch to 3-5-2 as the main formation has limited both his and Pedro’s playing time, he should get many more chances in the team until the end of the season given our hectic schedule.

As shown by his performance against Qarabag on Wednesday, when he scored a brace and won two penalties to have a hand in each of Chelsea’s four goals, Willian can still be a very impactful player on the team. It would be foolish to let him go without a proper replacement.