Willian on Sunday has confirmed he is leaving Chelsea, with Arsenal close to completing his signing on a three-year deal.
The 32-year-old who marks his birthday on Sunday leaves Stamford Bridge at the end of his contract after a seven-year spell, with Chelsea only willing to offer him a two-year deal rather than the player’s desired three years.
The Brazilian wrote an open letter to fans on his instagram page confirming his exit following Chelsea’s defeat to Bayern in the last 16 of the Champions League.
“They were seven wonderful years. In August 2013 when I received the offer from Chelsea, I was convinced that this was where I had to play,” he wrote.
“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.
“Yet, beyond the trophies, I learnt a lot about myself. I developed a great deal, becoming a better player and a better person.
“With each training session, with each game, with every minute spent in the dressing room, I was always learning.
“I am really grateful to the Chelsea fans for the affectionate way they welcomed me at Stamford Bridge and their support throughout my time at the club.
“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!
Arsenal is the ‘most likely destination’ for Willian if he fails to agree a new contract with Chelsea, according to Sky Sports News’ Kaveh Solhekol.
“The time has now come to move on. 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!”
Arsenal moved into pole position to sign the Brazil international by offering a three-year contract earlier this week, and are on the verge of beating off competition from Barcelona and Inter Miami.
Along with the length of the deal, joining Mikel Arteta’s rejuvenated side and the chance to work with fellow Brazilian Edu are the reasons Arsenal are favourites to secure Willian’s signature.
Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard has insisted he will have no hard feelings if Willian leaves the club.
“It actually doesn’t matter about disappointment from any party in this situation,” said Lampard, ahead of Chelsea’s Champions League tie against Bayern Munich on Saturday.
“I haven’t got an answer for you (if Willian will leave) first and foremost, because Willian remains our player at the moment