Chelsea attacker Willian talks us through his footballing journey, from Brazil to the Bridge.
The forward recalls having to make a tough career decision at an early age, realising a dream by signing for Chelsea and the amazing experience of a World Cup on home soil...
I had a lot of idols growing up. Marcelinho Carioca was a very famous player at the time. He played for Corinthians. He’s an idol of the Corinthians fans and he played in a similar position to me. Ronaldo was phenomenal. I also looked up to Romario and Ronaldinho. For me, Ronaldinho was the number one. They were the guys I admired but I could mention a lot more names because in Brazil at that time there were a lot of good players.
When I joined Corinthians I was only nine years old. I used to play for a small football school and one day we went to play a friendly game against a young Corinthians side. We lost the game but I played well and afterwards somebody from Corinthians asked if I was there on my own. I told them my dad was waiting outside and they said they wanted to speak to him, because they wanted me to go there for a week, for a trial. They talked to my dad, told him the date they wanted me to go, I did the trial and I passed. So that’s how I began to play for Corinthians.
When I made my Corinthians debut it was incredible, but I was only there for around 10 months before I joined Shakhtar Donetsk. Moving to Ukraine was a very difficult decision because everything was going to change. I took the decision with my parents and my agent. Before I signed the contract I stayed in the city for three days to have a look around and go to see their training ground. That’s when I began to feel like it could be a good move for me. They had a plan for a new stadium so the club were on the way up, and they were playing regularly in the Champions League. I spoke to my dad and we agreed it would be a good experience, so I signed the contract.
I stayed there for a couple of months with my dad, he went back to Brazil and then my mum came out. That’s how it was for the first year, and then I started a relationship with the girl who is now my wife, so she came out to stay with me, so it was good. I won a lot of trophies there. We won the Europa League, which was the UEFA Cup at the time, plus seven Ukrainian league titles and cup competitions, so I began to get a taste of success.
It was my dream to come to play for Chelsea. I knew Chelsea had made some offers while I was at Shakhtar so when I eventually arrived here, after a short spell with Anzhi Makhachkala, it was amazing. Having David Luiz, Oscar and Ramires here when I joined was very important for me because they helped me a lot with the language and inside the club, so it was very helpful. I told myself I had to start again because at Shakhtar I had my position and I always played. Everyone knew about my profile and how I played. I knew I had to start from zero to prove myself because it was a new club, new team-mates, new fans, and we had Jose Mourinho who was a big manager. He gave me a lot of confidence to show my quality.
To win the Premier League is not easy. For me it’s the best league in the world and when I won it for the first time in 2014/15 the feeling was unbelievable. But you cannot stop. In football you always have to continue. Chelsea always want to win trophies.
I made my Brazil debut against Gabon in 2011. It was one of the best feelings in the world, a dream come true to play my first game for my country. I was a sub and came on the second half. It was a big honour and a fantastic opportunity.
Representing Brazil at the World Cup in our country in 2014 was amazing. A great experience. It was difficult at the end because we lost that game against Germany but in terms of the whole experience it was amazing, and you learn a lot even when you lose. The feeling within Brazil during that period was unbelievable. There were thousands of fans turning up to our training sessions, and outside our hotels, it’s something I won’t forget.