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Willian reveals all on Arsenal contract termination despite club’s plans to keep him

Willian Arsenal

Willian insists Arsenal always wanted him to stay

Fulham star Willian has revealed Arsenal never wanted to let him go despite eventually agreeing to terminate his contract after just one season.

The Brazil international made his name in Ukrainian and Russian football with Shakhtar Donetsk and Anzhi Makhachkala before joining Chelsea for £30m in 2013.

The winger went on to score 63 goals in 339 appearances for the Blues over seven seasons, where he won the Premier League twice, the Europa League, the FA Cup, and the Carabao Cup.

The former Corinthians star then signed a three-year deal with Arsenal in 2020 but his move to north London did not go to plan.

He scored just one goal and bagged seven assists for the Gunners in 37 appearances and at the end of the 2020/21 season he described his time at the Emirates as “the worst time that I lived as a professional”.

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Now, the 35-year-old, who has found a new lease of life at Fulham over the past two seasons, has spoken about why he parted company with the Gunners – despite their efforts to try and keep him at the club.

‘Arsenal always wanted me to stay’

He told ESPN Brazil: “I arrived when Arsenal was going through an overhaul, changing a lot of things internally, and I arrived in the middle of it.

“I’d wanted to go there, I’d spoken to (manager) [Mikel] Arteta too, to (sporting director) Edu. I arrived motivated, very happy and, as time went by, things didn’t work out the way we’d hoped for various reasons.

“When it came to the end of the first season, I spoke to them and said: ‘I don’t think it’s going to work out here. I’m a player who needs to feel happy where I am, and here I can’t find myself’.

“So we decided to terminate my contract, but Arsenal always wanted me to stay, to try for another year. I think the main factor was that I caught the club in the middle of a revamp, changing everything.

“A lot of people have said: ‘Wait a bit longer, have a bit of patience’. But you know when you’re not feeling happy? When you’re in a place just for the money, it’s not very enjoyable, you know? Going somewhere just for the contract. And I’m not that kind of person, I have to feel good.”

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Willian, who swapped Arsenal for his old side Corinthians in 2021, did not have a happy stint back in his native Brazil the following campaign, either.

After 45 appearances for the Brazilian giants, he moved to Fulham after “constant threats to his family”. The veteran is out of contract this summer but is expected to sign a new deal with the Cottagers.

He added: “I always said that I didn’t want to go back to Brazil, that it wasn’t the right time. And then that time at Arsenal came and things changed. I felt encouraged to come back at that moment, not least because of my Corinthian family, to come back to the club that revealed me.

“Suddenly everyone knows what happened off the pitch and it didn’t work out. I ended up leaving Corinthians and going back to England. It’s difficult for a player to leave England and come back again. And I came back. I think it was a learning experience too.”