Willian celebrates his 31st birthday today (9 August) and to mark the occasion, we revisit some of the most important moments in the Chelsea career of our long-serving Brazilian star.
While he became an instant Chelsea hero when he rejected a Tottenham Hotspur offer so he could move to Stamford Bridge in August 2013, Willian didn’t make his Premier League debut until October when he came on as an 81st minute substitute with the Blues drawing 1-1 at Norwich City.
His impact was immediate as in the span of five minutes, he linked up with Oscar to set up a goal for Eden Hazard before he netted his first Chelsea goal with an exquisite left-footed strike into the top corner to secure a 3-1 win.
Bolt from the Blue
With one swing of his right boot, Willian turned an evening of frustration into one of unbridled joy at Stamford Bridge with a late winner against Everton in February 2015.
With Toffees keeper Tim Howard making a series of fine saves and Branislav Ivanovic having a goal disallowed for offside, the game remained scoreless when a clearance fell to the Brazilian just outside the box in the 89th minute.
He allowed it to bounce before lashing the ball through a crowd of defenders and into a narrow gap between Howard and his post to secure a vital victory which kept us seven points ahead of Manchester City at the top of the table.
Player of the Year
While the 2015/16 season is not remembered too fondly by Chelsea fans, Willian managed to produce some stand-out moments including spectacular free-kicks against Southampton and Dynamo Kiev and a thunderbolt strike at Crystal Palace.
In a difficult campaign, his goals, assists and high work-rate stood out and he was deservedly selected as Chelsea’s Player of the Year by the fans and the Players’ Player of the Year by his team-mates at the end of the season.
Going end to end at City
Willian covered considerable ground to give the Blues the lead in a crucial 3-1 win at Manchester City in December 2016.
In a matter of seconds, he went from end to end on a quick counter-attack, sprinting into the City half to gather a pass from Diego Costa and leaving three defenders in his wake before firing a low shot across Claudio Bravo into the far corner of the net.
The victory kept Chelsea at the top of the table as we went on to win the Premier League for the second time in three years.
Goal of the season
If Willian’s goal at City in 2016 showcased his pace and clinical finishing, his strike in a 4-0 win at Brighton in January 2018 showed his fine touch and excellent understanding with his team-mates.
After the Blues had won possession in the Brighton half, he combined with Eden Hazard and Michy Batshuayi on a series of quick passes which carved open the Seagulls defence and opened up space for the Brazilian to slam the ball home from the edge of the box.
Exquisite in its build-up and execution, the goal was deservedly named the Premier League’s Goal of the Month and Chelsea’s Goal of the Season.
Another Europa success
Ten years after winning the Europa League for the first time as a Shakhtar Donetsk player, Willian played a key role for the Blues as we went unbeaten through the 2018/19 tournament and lifted the trophy after a comprehensive 4-1 victory over Arsenal in Baku.
He captained the team and scored the only goal in our opening 1-0 win at Greek side PAOK and went on to become one of only two players, along with Andreas Christensen, to appear in all 15 matches in our campaign, scoring three goals and providing a tournament-leading seven assists in our winning cause.