Willian has announced the “time has now come” to leave Chelsea amid repeated reports of a free transfer to Arsenal. The Brazil forward, who turned 32 on Sunday, is out of contract following a seven-year stay at Stamford Bridge.
Willian won two Premier League titles, an FA Cup, a League Cup and the Europa League with Chelsea and said he would depart with his “head held high”.
“The time has now come to move on,” he wrote in an open letter to Chelsea supporters on Twitter. “I am certainly going to miss my team-mates. I will miss all the staff at the club who’ve always treated me like a son and I will miss the fans.
“I leave with my head held high, safe in the knowledge that I won things here and always did my best in a Chelsea shirt. My heartfelt thanks go out to all of you and God bless you.”
Willian, who has been struggling with an ankle injury, missed last weekend’s FA Cup final loss to Arsenal, as well as Saturday’s Champions League exit at Bayern Munich.
Having turned down Tottenham to join Chelsea from Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala in 2013, he scored 63 goals in 339 appearances. Reports suggest he could remain in London, playing under Mikel Arteta at the Emirates Stadium.
“They were seven wonderful years,” he wrote. “In August 2013 when I received the offer from Chelsea, I was convinced that this was where I had to play. Today I am certain that it was the best of decisions. There were so many happy times, some sad, there were trophies and it was always very intense.
“There was also criticism, which is normal, what is important though is that both the affection and criticism drove me to always give my all in every training session, every game, to be constantly improving until my very last minute in a Chelsea shirt.”
Willian is not the only forward leaving Chelsea, with Pedro on his way to Italy. The Spaniard, who is set to join Roma on a free transfer, also bid a fond farewell to his current employers.
“After five wonderful years my stage at Chelsea FC comes to an end,” he wrote on Instagram. “It’s been a pleasure and an honour to play for this club and win the Premier League, FA Cup and Europa League titles, as well as competing in one of the world’s best football leagues. I made the right choice, I take with me wonderful and unforgettable memories.
“I say farewell very pleased with this stage of my career, and I’m also very excited with the next to begin. Thanks and good luck for the future.”