Fulham forward Willian is delighted to have proved detractors wrong in his return to the Premier League this campaign.
The 34-year-old spent seven seasons at Chelsea and joined Arsenal in 2020, where his three-year agreement was cut short by mutual consent after just one season.
Some wondered if that unhappy spell at the Emirates would mark the end of the Brazil international’s time in the English top flight before Marco Silva’s side snapped him up on a one-year deal set to expire in June.
Willian, who picked up an assist in Fulham’s 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace, said: “When I left Chelsea, Arsenal, it didn’t work, you know, and then I went back to Brazil. I think some people did think I was finished but I proved, not for them but for me, that I can play in the Premier League again.
“I’m proud to be doing what I have been doing this season. I think a lot of people didn’t believe that I can come back to the Premier League and do the same job that I had been doing a lot of years ago, I’m proud of it as well and I just want to keep playing with a smile on my face. ”
The assist brought Willian’s campaign tally to four, having also netted five goals across 26 appearances for the Cottagers. He would have made it six against Palace but for Sam Johnstone’s fingertip save of his skilled effort.
Fulham have one more attempt to match or break their all-time Premier League points tally, 53. That record was set in 2008-09 under Roy Hodgson, who occupied the visitors’ dugout on Saturday.
Willian’s side currently sit 10th with 52 points, and will look to make history against Manchester United on Sunday, the Brazilian vowing “we still have to believe we can break the record, so let’s do it.”
After that, he added: “I have a contract until the end of June, I don’t know what’s going to happen. Of course it’s some place that I feel good here to play (at). I have to speak to the club to see the situation. Let’s see what’s going to happen.”
Eberechi Eze has been one of the brightest sparks for Palace this season with a team-leading 10 goals and four assists, renewing calls for Gareth Southgate to consider him for an England call-up this summer.
The arrival of Hodgson back at Selhurst Park further fuelled the midfielder, who admitted he may be playing the best football of his life.
Asked how much he’s enjoying himself right now, Eze replied: “Loads, loads. I feel like I’ve got the freedom to play, to do my thing and I’m just happy to be playing and enjoying my football.
“I just feel like I’ve been given the freedom. I found it difficult at times, as a team we were going through a tough period so that’s natural, but since the gaffer has come in I feel like we have worked well together.
“I’ve obviously played with him before, so I understand what he wants and where he wants me to be, so I think that’s helped.
“I want to continue to play how I’ve been playing, I want to continue enjoying it, contributing to the game as much as I can and I feel like that is the most important thing.”