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  • 3 weeks later...

http://thesefootballtimes.co/2016/10/30/willians-unorthodox-voyage-to-footballs-pinnacle/

Decent read.

For Chelsea Football Club the 2015-16 season could best be described in one word as turbulent. What began as an optimistic Premier League title defence quickly descended into a tempestuous campaign, punctuated by in-fighting, accusations of betrayal, staff departures and disciplinary charges galore, eventually culminating in a 10th-place finish previously thought bewilderingly implausible before the season’s start.

Unable to weather the storm, Chelsea’s collapse saw their most successful manager José Mourinho spectacularly dismissed for a second time by the Chelsea chiefs and had all involved with the Blues pining for the season’s end as early as January; desperate for the chance to start anew in 2016.

That is, almost all involved with Chelsea were desperate to start anew. For one man at Stamford Bridge, the year had actually proved to be something of a coming of age, who’d have been forgiven for wishing the season would never end. That man being Willian Borges da Silva.

For the London club’s silver-lining, the season’s disastrous nature seemed only to bring the best out his very best. As his team’s once reliable recruits faltered with remarkable regularity, the Brazilian’s form became truly inspired, as he turned in the most emphatic season of his career to date.

Notching 11 goals and 10 assists in 49 games in all competitions, Willian secured for himself an end-of-season double, being named Chelsea’s Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year, certifying the midfielder’s ascent from unknown quantity to bonafide Premier League star.

Willian’s path to Premier League glory was hardly conventional but even when heading for the promised land one can surely be excused a little detour along the way.

• • • •

On a warm winter evening in November 2006, Willian was granted his first professional appearance by then-Corinthians manager Émerson Leão, as his side hosted Fluminense. Having spent eight years steadily progressing through the youth ranks of the famous São Paulo club, Willian’s debut, aged just 18, shocked nobody, and neither did the relative ease with which he seemed to embrace the expectations of the Estádio do Pacaembu crowd, particularly given the weight of the number 10 emblazoned on his back.

Though the youngster was only deployed just once more before the season’s end, his introduction and promising contribution evidenced enough to provide the more juvenile Timão fans with a new hobby to pass the long hours between post-season and pre-season: squabbling over who deserved to call themselves Willian while emulating their heroes in the streets.

The following season began in May 2007, Corinthians hosting Juventude, with Willian included in the starting line-up on opening day. At the centre of the Corinthians attacking midfield was where he stayed for the majority of the season. But despite his growing influence in the squad – assists versus Santos and Flamengo and his first goals – Willian’s first full season fell far short of the heights he had allowed himself to dream of during the seasonal break. On the contrary, the 2007-08 season matched only the wildest fantasies of Corinthians’ greatest rivals.

On the back of a recent history of poor administration and a desperate immediate financial situation, Corinthians, in 2004, had signed a controversial deal with an international group of investors named Media Sports Investment (MSI) that in effect swapped a large portion of the club’s controlling rights for the promise of great investment in the club, with a view to satisfying its need for on-field success.

Their apocryphal agreement appeared to be paying dividends from the outset as MSI were able to broker deals that saw the likes of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano brought to São Paulo from Argentina’s most famous clubs, Boca Juniors and River Plate, and it was with these two star names forming the spine of the squad that Corinthians were crowned Brazilian champions little over a year later.

However, with little amicability to be found between the Corinthians management and MSI president Kia Joorabchian, the partnership ended almost as efficiently as it had begun, and as a result Tevez and Mascherano’s days in the south of Brazil were numbered. With funding pulled, their prized assets valued and stripped, so too were Corinthians days of competing at the summit of Brazilian football.

• • • •

West Ham

Read  |  When Tevez and Mascherano went to West Ham

• • • •

Though these events perhaps allowed Willian a faster transition into the Corinthians first team, there he found few of the stars he had watched from the sidelines over recent years and soon his side began to slip down the table.

In early December 2007, in their final fixture of the season, Corinthians fans prayed their team’s 1-1 draw with Grêmio would be enough to see them to safety. But a 2-1 win over Internacional for relegation rivals Goiás, a game that famously included a penalty requiring three takes, certified their fate. Corinthians were relegated to Brazil’s second tier for the first time in their distinguished history.

Their immense legion of supporters, already adorned in black, mourned as though they had witnessed the final breath of their one true love. To many they had.

• • • •

The enticement of European football simply irresistible, particularly given Corinthians new temporary home in the Brasileirão Série B, Willian soon journeyed east. Though unlike so many of his compatriots, Willian opted not to join the stream of Brazilians migrating to Europe’s traditional big leagues in search of immediate stardom.

In lieu of the allure of England, Spain, Italy and France, the attraction that had coaxed to such acclaim the likes of Cafu, Kaká, Roberto Carlos, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, and so many others, instead, on 23 August 2007, Willian added his own name to a burgeoning crop of lesser-known Brazilians at Ukraine’s top club Shakhtar Donetsk.

With a squad dynamic typical of eastern Europe’s top hitters, on Willian Shakhtar spent around €14 million to add another skilful Brazilian to their squad, to spearhead the attack of a team backed by imposing, stoic European defenders. Awaiting his arrival were compatriots Fernandinho, Ilsinho, Jádson, Brandão and Luiz Adriano.

Over the following six years Willian enjoyed a level of domestic domination utterly alien to most, and he wasn’t made to wait long for his first taste of silverware.

Just eight months after a half-hour cameo had allowed Willian a modest Shakhtar debut, against Chornomorets Odesa, an even shorter-lived appearance allowed the Brazilian the chance to be on the Metalist Stadium pitch when the curtain fell on the 2007-08 Ukrainian Cup final.

His own personal peripherality on the day irrelevant, a tumultuous 2-0 win over rivals Dynamo Kyiv, in a game that saw almost as many red cards as shots on target – shots just edging it six to five – had secured for Willian and his team-mates a domestic double. The two trophies, secured less than two weeks apart, were Willian’s first in professional football but far from his last.

As his prestige in Ukraine grew so too did the need for a larger trophy cabinet in the Borges da Silva household. Though his club could only settle for second place in the following league campaign, they were able to add to their season-opening Ukrainian Super Cup victory with success in the UEFA Cup.

Having succumbed to a third place finish behind Barcelona and Sporting CP in the Champions League group stage, Shakhtar dropped into the UEFA Cup; a far more realistic, though still unlikely, target for the team in orange and black.

However the odds soon began to favour the Ukrainian side as after disposing of Tottenham Hotspur, CSKA Moscow, Marseille and domestic rivals Dynamo Kyiv en route, Shakhtar found themselves in a final against Werder Bremen from which they eventually emerged deservedly victorious. Winning 2-1 in extra time, with all three goals scored by compatriots of Willian, his team claimed their first ever major European trophy.

• • • •

willian shakhtarWillian joined a healthy Brazilian contingent at Shakhtar

• • • •

The next three years saw Shakhtar return to their predatory ways, reinstating their position at the top of the Ukrainian food chain. Their success on the continent in 2009 proved to be an anomaly, as no sequel to their first fruitful European adventure followed, but at home Shakhtar’s dominance proved insurmountable once more as they claimed three consecutive league titles, back-to-back Ukrainian Cup wins in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons, as well as a further two Ukrainian Super Cup wins to boot.

As Willian’s sixth season in Ukraine approached it was clear to see that the landscape of the Shakhtar squad had altered greatly when compared to the 2007 crop that had welcomed him, though there were no fewer Brazilians for Willian to play alongside. While Ilsinho, Jádson and Brandão had departed Donetsk in search of pastures new, Shakhtar had, in that time, invested in Brazilians Alex Teixeira, Douglas Costa and Dentinho to replace them.

 

Edited by erskblue
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  • 1 month later...

Strange, I wouldn't say he was especially good when he came on. Threatening, yes, end product was lacking. He also kept throwing his arms up in the air at poor times....looked very frustrated at a lot of things.

 

BUT! His finish was class, and ultimately won us the game. So despite some negatives, his threats did end up getting us what we needed out of the game, and that's what matters. And he was significantly more dangerous than Pedro today, so that's a big positive too.

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To be honest, I thought he was slightly poor. GOod goal obviously and at times stretched them with his running, but defensively he didn't put much effort in, just jogging around. He hasn't seemed to have that endless energy since he had the time off, I suspect it's still affecting him quite a lot.

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17 minutes ago, IliyaKrostin said:

Great performance by Willian, City had troubles to deal with him, starting to return to himself.

Willian and Moses with their pace was a huge threat for City, because they gave away so much space with their high pressing. i still prefer Pedro whenever we face teams that stay more compact though, because Willian can be very frustrating with his desicion making in the final thrid.

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2 minutes ago, DidierDrogbalala said:

it looked like he wanted to provoke things unlike when he starts when he seems to be content with just running around (a lot) , maybe he plays better when theres competition for the starting position since he was pretty good when Schurlle was here 

I like Willian coming off the bench. Having his energy and pace running at tiring opposition defenders is a great weapon to have.

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1 hour ago, comtrend said:

Willian and Moses with their pace was a huge threat for City, because they gave away so much space with their high pressing. i still prefer Pedro whenever we face teams that stay more compact though, because Willian can be very frustrating with his desicion making in the final thrid.

I agree, when the opposition is sitting back you need more creative and better finishers like Pedro and Hazard.

This game was perfect for Willian and a nice finish but some of his decision making and end product was still poor.

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