With the season finally coming to a close, Chelsea have bid farewell to two long-serving players.
Pedro and Willian officially announced their departures from Stamford Bridge on Sunday, following the expiration of their contracts. It brings an end to a fruitful era and exciting stints for the wingers, leaving west London with their heads held high.
With 545 appearances and five trophies between themselves, it is no wonder that they leave to a standing ovation.
Willian joined first back in 2013, departing Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala for the Premier League. Pedro arrived in the capital two years later, searching for a new challenge having won it all with Barcelona. Their first season together was one to forget for Chelsea, whose 10th place finish was their lowest in 20 years.
Both quickly established themselves at Stamford Bridge, each scoring on their Premier League debut two years apart. Willian guided his shot into the top corner in a 3-1 win at Norwich City, while Pedro poked his effort home to open the scoring in the 3-2 victory over West Bromwich Albion.
Their similarities extended past their position, forming a strong partnership in Chelsea’s attack over time. They were valuable assets to the Blues regardless of who was in charge, whether it was José Mourinho or Frank Lampard. As decorated internationals for Spain and Brazil respectively, they brought vital experience to the squad.
Pedro arrived as one of the game’s most respected wingers, with a World Cup among his overflowing trophy cabinet. He spent the first season settling into west London life, but it was under Antonio Conte the following year that the Spaniard truly flourished.
Chelsea won their sixth league title in 2017, with Pedro a crucial piece of Conte’s serial winning puzzle. He contributed a fifth (22.4%) of the Blues’ goals en route to Premier League glory, with his rapid goal against Manchester United and beautiful turn and finish against Tottenham some of his standout moments in royal blue.
Pedro was energetic to say the least, enjoyed for his mazing runs up and down the pitch. He brought his superb Spanish flair to Chelsea whenever he played, scoring just under half a century of goals in 206 appearances. He was key to every piece of silverware won, most notably in the Europa League last year, scoring in the final against Arsenal.
Although he struggled for gametime in his final year, the appreciation for the man from Tenerife never faded, despite his reduced role. He was always a popular figure on Fulham Road, and will surely go on to take Italy by storm when he joins Roma.
Willian was perhaps a misunderstood figure at Stamford Bridge, loved by many but loathed by some. He was the victim of staunch criticism throughout his time in west London, mainly on social media where he was painted as a villain. But for all of his flaws and weaknesses, he was wonderful for Chelsea.
Although 125 goal contributions in 339 appearances may not give for outstanding reading, the significance of his goals cannot be underestimated.
The Brazilian shone brighter than anyone in the infamous 2015/16 season, deservedly winning the fans’ and players’ Player of the Year awards. His goal against Porto helped the Blues reach the Champions League knockout stages, while his outrageous long shot at Crystal Palace was one of many glimpses of what he could do in blue.
Willian continued to be a key figure at the Bridge, as he began to be entrusted with the captain’s armband in 2018 in César Azpilicueta’s absence. His senior status in the first team was valued and respected, especially with the breakthrough of young wingers like Callum Hudson-Odoi.
Now 32, Willian played a key role in his final season under former teammate Lampard. With 11 goals and nine assists in his farewell campaign, the Brazilian made the third-most goal contributions for Chelsea, helping secure a top four finish and FA Cup Final. He will leave as a cult hero, forever the man who hates Tottenham.
It was fitting that both men scored in the final game with fans, each finding the back of the net in Chelsea’s 4-0 rout of Everton on 8th March. Whether they knew that would be their last dance with the Blues faithful, it was the perfect way to sign off in front of the fans who worshipped them for years.
However hard it may be to say goodbye, Pedro and Willian are both leaving at the perfect time. They have played their part at Stamford Bridge and had their moments, yet with the youngsters coming through, the time for transition is now.
Christian Pulisic and Hudson-Odoi have huge potential, and will have even more significant roles next season. Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner are coming in to offer a breath of fresh air, each a top European talent in their own right. It is a shame to see the veterans leave, but it is time to change the old guard once again.
For all the goals, memories and trophies, it is the end of a wonderful era for Pedro and Willian.