In the first part of our interview with Willian celebrating his 300 Chelsea games, he spoke about that considerable achievement and some highlights so far. Today the focus is on life under his former team-mate Frank Lampard, the development of the Premier League and his targets for the future…
When Willian joined Chelsea in the summer of 2013, Frank Lampard was setting out on what would prove to be his final season at Stamford Bridge. The pair shared the pitch on 26 occasions, including for Willian’s first game, against Basel, and Lampard’s last, at home to Norwich, and spent countless more hours together in training.
Fast forward five years and Willian is now learning from Lampard again at Cobham, but this time he is the manager. It is clear he is feeling the benefits of Lampard’s leadership, and is grateful for the praise heaped on him by our boss after the recent win at Southampton.
‘He was an intelligent player, one of the best in his position,’ says Willian. ‘A quality player. When you see players like him you can say maybe in the future he can become a manager, and he’s here with us!
‘It’s a bit weird he is my boss now, but I am very happy to work with him again. He has given me the confidence to play. He wants me to be happy. A part of the performances I have had in the past couple of games I have to dedicate to him. He always says to me "I want you to be happy". That’s why I have been playing like I have been.
‘I think our style of play has helped me, but not only that. The freedom he gives to us is important as well. I don’t have to stay on the right side. I can move around, I can move between the lines, I can move to the left side as well.
‘I feel good playing in this way and that’s why I have been playing better and better. I hope to continue like this.’
Willian is also enjoying playing with so many youngsters who have come through Academy, ‘proper Chelsea boys’ as he calls them. He thinks they can become some of the very best players in the Premier League.
It is a league Willian says has got stronger and stronger in his six years in England.
‘There is more focus on playing football now, there is less long ball. You play against teams who don’t have a "big name" but they have good players, they play well, and that’s why for me it’s the best league in the world. There is quality in all the league from top to bottom.
‘The Premier League has always been the same, fast football, but year by year it has become harder to play in tactically.’
Willian continues to pursue interests away from the field of play. Alongside the restaurant in central London he co-owns with David Luiz, our no.10 has recently set up an online course that aims to help young people who wish to become footballers. It focuses on the mental side of the game and stems from lessons Willian has learned during his path to the top.
‘For me in football today, of course on the pitch is good, but more important is off the pitch: how you sleep, how you eat, how you look after yourself, how you can overcome obstacles, difficult situations like that.
‘We will talk about frustrations, about things outside the pitch that can help a lot. It is an online so anybody anywhere in the world can take part.’
While continuing to inspire the next generation of players from his homeland Brazil and further afield, Willian remains focused on his day-to-day job of trying to achieve more success with Chelsea. He is not resting on his laurels after 300 games, and we finish by asking him to outline his targets for the rest of the season.
‘To continue to play, to play at my best level, goals, assists, and to win titles,’ he immediately states.
‘If you play for this club you have to think about winning titles, because Chelsea always wants to win. We know there’s a new coach, a new philosophy, but we can win something important. That’s what I want.’
If his and the team’s current good form continues, more silverware is a real possibility.