Chelsea boss Frank Lampard hailed “incredible” Willian, explaining how this season the normal-reserved winger has emerged as a vital leader for the Blues.
Like most modern footballers, Willian has seen his fair share of critique on social media in recent times.
But the Brazilian, who has started all but one of Chelsea’s Premier League matches, deserves none of it, says Lampard.
“I remember the back-end of my playing career when it comes to social media, I had a couple of moments of viewing what fans thought of me, either Chelsea or outside,” Lampard said.
The head coach added he understands the importance and influence of social media, but he won’t let his own decision-making process impact outside opinions:
“And it kind of stopped me wanting to look at it again because if you were to look at social media, you would never pick a team, you would change it every two seconds, and I guess that is the beauty of football in one way, that everyone has opinions.
“Fortunately, my opinion is the important one at the club right now. And I get to see what the players are like, how they train from day to day, so when you’re making a selection people could comment on from outside, they don’t see what you see.
“And I have a tremendous value in training, how players behave and work in the week’s workout. I knew Willian was having it as a player, because I was playing with him. I think we’ve all seen it this year on the pitch, his work ethic off the ball, his creation and his ball work, and you’ve seen it against Aston Villa, too.
“So, I think Chelsea fans generally hold him in real high regard. It’s hard in modern times to get a glimpse of what social media is saying from all over the world. I think people in the club know the value of him, and whatever happens at the end of the season, he’s been a fantastic club servant.”
Moreover, at the end of the season, Willian could depart with his contract originally set to expire at the end of June.
Recently, though, the Brazilian delayed that departure by joining Pedro in agreeing terms through the end of the 2019-20 season.
Nonetheless, Willian has made it publicly clear that the Blues are unwilling to offer him the three-year deal he hopes for, and his future remains undecided as a consequence.
The 31-year-old has been with Chelsea for seven years, during his time at Stamford Bridge, winning two Premier League titles, the FA Cup, the League Cup and the Europa League.
Having played with the winger, Lampard has a unique appreciation for the Brazilian and the boss of Chelsea is thrilled to involve Willian in the final eight Premier League season matches as well as the FA Cup and Champions League.
“It has been amazing in terms of the younger players looking up to him,” said Lampard. “Throughout, he’s played every level, and himself at a high level.
“He has a great character about him and it’s good, it’s important that when you have a lot of young players they have people to look up from within. He’s not a shouter and a screamer, but he certainly works by example in the way he’s every day, so yes, I’m very grateful to have him in the squad this year.”