Since joining from Anzhi Makhachkala in August 2013, Willian has delivered some priceless moments for Chelsea. From last-minute winners to fantastic free kicks, the Brazilian has been a wonderful servant for the west London club, in seven years full of silverware.
However, many reports are suggesting that Willian could soon be bringing his Stamford Bridge stint to a close. His contract expires this summer, and the 31-year-old said himself that it is ‘unlikely’ that he’ll receive another extension, which would be ‘difficult’ to obtain.
Meanwhile, Willian revealed on Friday that he misses former manager José Mourinho, who is now at rivals Tottenham. The Brazilian was on the verge of joining Spurs before the deal fell through and he went to west London, but now Spurs are lining up a possible move for when his contract runs out.
A number of sources point to Willian leaving Chelsea, and with the rumours intensifying week by week a move is looking all the more likely.
No one can fault Willian’s achievements at Chelsea. 329 appearances, 118 combined goals & assists and five trophies, as well as being named the Blues’ Player of the Year in 2016. He has enjoyed a decorated career in SW6 and is the second longest serving player in the squad, only behind captain César Azpilicueta.
Willian has also had a decent season so far, ranking as Chelsea’s joint-second top scorer this campaign. He scored twice in his last two games, and has been one of Frank Lampard’s key players thanks to his experience in the squad. He remains an asset to the team, and has been fantastic in his seven successful years.
But where will he stand come summer?
When his contract expires in June – though that is likely to receive a short-term extension should the Premier League season return – it looks less and less likely that he will be granted another two or three years at Stamford Bridge. Willian himself has said it’s unlikely, given the club’s strict protocol over contract extensions for players over 30.
The two parties seem to be in agreement that this season will be his last in blue - though when his farewell might be is uncertain due to the current circumstances. He looks ready to leave on a good note, and looking at the squad situation further proves that now is the perfect time for Willian to depart to a standing ovation.
Moroccan winger Hakim Ziyech will be arriving at Stamford Bridge in the coming months, and with one wide player coming in, one must go. Ziyech looks to be arriving as a replacement for Willian, Pedro or even both, as Lampard looks to inject a breath of fresh air into his squad.
In addition to Ziyech, Chelsea have a wealth of attacking starlets ready to take the next step in the team. Callum Hudson-Odoi and Christian Pulisic, who are 19 and 21 respectively, will surely be Chelsea’s go-to wingers for years to come, while the likes of Mason Mount and Ruben Loftus-Cheek also eager to assume starring roles at the Bridge.
Lampard has deliberately turned to his youth talent and given them their deserved opportunities in the first team, though Willian’s experience has remained crucial. That being said, the future of Chelsea is in safe hands with young players who will only improve, and it’s time for the baton to be passed and to move on to the next runner.
All the alternate factors are now aligning, and all lights are shining in the direction of a youth revolution at Chelsea.
While Willian is ready to leave Chelsea and has reached the stage of his career where that’s the best choice, his efforts must not go unappreciated.
He has been a wonderful player for the Blues and a superb ambassador for the club, and he deserves to move on with all the respect and credit his talent has warranted. The Brazilian has shown dedication and passion for the west London side, and his fan favourite status at Stamford Bridge is evident.
Willian has done everything he set out to do when he arrived in London all those years ago, and there’s no better time to leave on a high and close this chapter of his career in style.