Willian admits he joined Fulham at the beginning of the 2022/23 campaign sceptical at the club's prospects in the Premier League, with the 34-year-old returning to England following a season in his native Brazil with Corinthians.
Fans were also unconvinced Willian had the hunger or desire to prove himself at Craven Cottage, but both parties have since proven each other wrong. Fulham finished the season 10th in the Premier League, while Willian impressed across his 27 appearances, scoring five and assisting a further six.
"Honestly? I was like, ‘Damn, should I sign for them?!’ In all of my seasons playing in the Premier League, I’d seen them going up and down, up and down, so I remember thinking, ‘Going there to fight against relegation will be tough’," Willian admits.
"But then I watched their matches and I saw a very organised team; a really good side. I talked to Andreas Pereira and he spoke incredibly highly of Marco.
"Until then, I’d only played for the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal, but I believe it’s been a good choice. Since day one, I’ve felt fantastic at Fulham and I can only thank the club staff for the way they’ve treated me."
Among his five goals this season was a strike against his former side Chelsea, during a 2-1 win against them back in January. Pinpointing it as a personal highlight across the campaign, Willian didn't actually celebrate, as he explains.
"Undoubtedly the match against Chelsea [was a personal highlight this season], my former side, for whom I have great respect and affection, where I spent so many years and won important trophies."
When I faced them, I could feel how much the fans still respect me. That’s why I didn’t celebrate my goal against them in January. A month later, we played at Stamford Bridge and I really didn’t expect to be treated the way I was.
"Before a big game like that, you’re always nervous. Lots of things go through your head. Will they boo me? But, no, I’ll never forget how they received me. When my name was announced, all of the fans applauded, then when I was substituted, they sang my song. That was something I can’t even put into words. I’ll forever remember that moment."
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Ryan is a staff writer for FourFourTwo, joining the team full-time in October 2022. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture's websites, before eventually earning himself a position with FourFourTwo permanently. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer while a Trainee News Writer at Future.