Chelsea winger Willian discusses his childhood heroes, his European adventures, his immense work-rate, and how Guus Hiddink is "a great person" as well as a top coach.
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A prolific scorer in the group stage, Willian could do with getting on the scoresheet again as Chelsea welcome Paris Saint-Germain, needing to overturn a 2-1 round of 16 deficit to reach the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals. The Brazilian winger, 27, speaks about his adventures in Europe, his immense stamina and how he is determined to play with a smile on his face.
UEFA.com: Which UEFA Champions League players inspired you the most while growing up?
Willian: I always liked watching Ronaldo and Ronaldinho; they were the players who I dreamt about meeting. They inspired me a lot in my own style of play.
UEFA.com: You always play with a smile on your face; is it something you learned in Brazil?
Willian: Without a doubt. I always try to play happily. On the pitch we tend to forget the things that happen off the field. I try to focus a lot on what I'm doing. I think that for a player to develop fully on the pitch he needs to be happy.
UEFA.com: Was moving from Brazil to Shakhtar in Ukraine in 2007 a big culture shock?
Willian: It was difficult at the start – the culture, the football, the climate, the food, everything is different. But I adapted quickly with the help of the other Brazilians already at Shakhtar. Then my family came to stay with me and later I got married, so I ended up adapting quickly.
UEFA.com: Chelsea are having a difficult season domestically, but are doing well in the UEFA Champions League, with you scoring five goals in six group stage games. How has it been for you?
Willian: I'm delighted with how I've been doing. Clearly I hope to be able to do more – I hope to be able to continue to help Chelsea with my goals and to get more victories. I try not to put too much pressure on myself, but I always try to develop and play better.
UEFA.com: Was moving to Chelsea in 2013 a big step up?
Willian: I am at one of the biggest clubs in the world, playing in what I think is the best league and always playing in the Champions League, so playing at this club is a dream. Since I arrived, I have tried to develop every season, play better in each match, and that's what has happened. I hope to continue like this.
UEFA.com: Apart from creating and scoring spectacular goals, your work-rate really marks you out. How do you keep so fit?
Willian: The extra work I do is to rest and to eat healthily. Of course I do some work in terms of strengthening my muscles, which is important for a player, but nothing too much. There is no secret to it.
UEFA.com: What changes has Guus Hiddink introduced since coming to the club?
Willian: He's a very experienced coach – a coach who has already won many trophies. The team are playing well. We have been getting victories and I hope we can keep this up. Apart from being a great coach, he's a great person. I admire him a lot for the person and coach he is. I have a lot of respect – I worked with him in Russia [at Anji]. He welcomed me with open arms there, so we have a very good relationship.