It was such a dramatic change of heart that it even spawned an iconic fan chant and now former Chelsea winger Willian has revealed exactly how he made a last-minute decision to sign for Chelsea rather than Spurs in the summer of 2013…
The Brazil international was in London hoping to complete a permanent transfer from the Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala and was on the verge of putting pen to paper at Tottenham’s training ground when he received news of an offer from SW6.
It proved a split-second decision and the rest went down in Blues folklore as his snub to our big rivals delighted supporters who instantly took the new man to their hearts.
‘I was in London for two weeks, waiting, waiting for Tottenham to decide because they were in a situation where Gareth Bale was in the process of leaving them to join Real Madrid,’ the 34-year-old explained this week.
‘Liverpool were also interested. I wasn’t sure about Chelsea. They’d shown interest but it wasn’t so firm at first. Chelsea came on the day I was going to sign the contract with Spurs. I was at Tottenham’s training ground to finalise the deal when the call came. My agent said to me, ‘Chelsea just called me and they want you’. I said, ‘OK, I want to go there!’.
‘Then I left the training ground and went back to the hotel. It was a difficult situation because I’d agreed more or less to join Spurs, but in my mind was only Chelsea. Once the deal between Anzhi and Chelsea was agreed, I only wanted to go there. It was the best decision of my career.’
Willian went on to make 336 appearances over a seven-year career with the Blues, hitting some memorable strikes among his 63 goals and claiming five major honours, including two Premier League titles.
He left for Arsenal in the summer of 2020 and is now back in the capital with Fulham, though keeps a close eye on developments across town at his former club, where he believes his former team-mate Cesar Azpilicueta has provided invaluable continuity in changing times.
‘This is where Cesar Azpilicueta will help,’ added Willian. ‘He is a very good player, an important one for the club. He’s been there for 10 years and, with his experience, he can help the young players that play there at the moment.
‘Chelsea is a big club, one of the best in the world. Every year, they are fighting for something, even if they change a manager. They are always there. In the seven years I was there, I had Jose Mourinho, Guus Hiddink, Antonio Conte, Maurizio Sarri and Frank Lampard, but it didn’t stop us. We always fought for something.
‘It’s hard to win the Premier League. It’s even harder now because of Manchester City. It is the team everyone wants to beat, Liverpool too. But this season there are a lot of teams who have improved, so it will be harder for everyone.’