With the Brazilian football season coming to an end, several former Premier League stars celebrated while others were left heartbroken including Diego Costa, David Luiz and Willian
Willian’s homecoming to Corinthians has not been the fairytale ending to his career that he would have hoped for.
In the summer, the Brazilian was commended after ripping up his own contract – that was worth £7.2m-a-year – at Arsenal to terminate his time in north London.
After a wretched season where the Gunners finished eighth in the Premier League, many fans pointed the finger at Willian.
Despite a fine start, the forward became a scapegoat for Arsenal’s poor displays on the pitch while the former Chelsea star managed just one goal across 37 appearances.
With his game-time decreasing as the season went on, Willian became more and more frustrated and he left for his home country to join Corinthians – his boyhood club.
Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
It was supposed to be a magical reunion with fans over the moon to land such a prestigious Premier League star on a free transfer.
But it has not turned out that way with the player’s poor form following him across the Atlantic Ocean.
With former Arsenal and Barcelona star Sylvinho taking over in May, there was great expectation that Corinthians could challenge for the title – one they have not won since 2017.
Instead, Time do Povo could not put together any meaningful form while Willian largely did not even make the bench.
During pre-season with Arsenal, fitness was a clear issue for the Brazil international with pictures emerging of him looking out of shape.
But when he moved to Corinthians, they were already halfway through the season and could not afford to bring in an unfit player.
The 33-year-old was given a four-game stretch early on, starting them all – he was subbed off in all of them – the last of the four being at half-time.
Apart from a nine-minute cameo, Willian was not seen in a Cortinthians shirt again for another two months when he came off the bench against Santos.
In his absence, the Neo Quimica Arena outfit had climbed from seventh to fourth but the former Arsenal player would start just one more match – a 1-1 draw where he claimed one of two assists for the club.
For what must go down as a poor year for the veteran star, his old Chelsea pal Diego Costa was in ascendancy.
After being let go by Atletico Madrid and struggling to find a club, the striker returned to his roots and moved back to Brazil where he signed for Atletico Mineiro.
With 15 appearances and just netting four, his prowess in front of goal appears to have diminished yet his presence has not – regularly ruffling defenders and creating a nuisance for them throughout the 90 minutes.
The 33-year-old helped lead them to their first Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A title in 50 years, ahead of Flamengo, who employ more former Chelsea teammates in David Luiz and Filipe Luis.
For all of Willian’s woes, the story is not over and the next season promises to be much better for the winger.
The fans still adore him and blame the club’s pains of finishing fifth on the manager while a proper pre-season will do him the world of good.
But while his powers might be waning, he can take a leaf out of Costa’s book and still make a difference – even when not scoring or assisting.
So far, Willian has mustered just one shot on target and yet his completed dribbles have increased from his time at Arsenal from less than half to over two a match.
It screams a player that has so much more to give but is just falling short and who knows – it might be the fairytale ending after all.