Youth Teams
Youth Teams

Young Lion Chris Willock opens up on life in Lisbon with Benfica and his future hopes

England U20 forward Chris Willock is just coming to the end of his first season with Portuguese club Benfica following a move from Arsenal last summer. Looking back over the campaign for club and country, the 20-year-old explains all for

Monday 23 Apr 2018
It's been a good year with England U20s this year

I was always keen on playing abroad at some stage in my career, but I didn’t ever think it would happen so quickly.

Growing up, you hear about all of these clubs whether it’s through watching games on television or even just playing FIFA with your mates.

Chris Willock
  • Born: 31/01/98, Waltham Forest, London
  • Clubs: Arsenal, Benfica
  • England caps: U16, U17, U18, U19, U20
  • Instagram/Twitter: @ChrisWillock

I had been with Arsenal since I was five, it’s the club I grew up with and my brother Joe is still with them, but I wanted to play more football and that’s one of the main reasons I chose to leave them.

When Benfica got in touch last summer, I went over to visit and when I was there, they convinced me that this was the club I wanted to play at for the next couple of years.

As a club, Benfica’s philosophy is really good. They like the technical aspect of the game and that’s one of my strengths I think, so it gave me a big reason to go.

When you look abroad, they produce a lot of young players and they get a chance early and the clubs throw them in. Hopefully I can do the same and it will work out for me. I knew if I played well and work hard, in my opinion, I feel I have a much better opportunity.

Playing against Portugal for England U20s in Manchester in March


There’s a few English players who have gone abroad this season, if you look at Jadon Sancho, Reece Oxford, Ade Lookman. It’s a good option, you’ve got to be open-minded and take risks.

If you believe in yourself, you can make that step and it’s a good opportunity for the young English players to go out and experience it.

And even though I’ve still got a long way to go, I’ve played a lot of football this season. I’ve been in the first-team squad a couple of times, but I’ve mainly been with the second team which play in the Portuguese second division.

It’s difficult, you’re playing against men but it’s a good experience for me and I’m just trying to work hard to get in the senior manager’s thoughts.

In terms of the lifestyle, I’m really enjoying it out here. I’m getting used to the culture and it’s been a whole new experience for me.

My mum came out with me for the first six months to help me settle in, but I’m really enjoying it now and starting to make friends which has made it all easier.

I live out of the city, because there’s a lot of traffic and the training ground is out of the city. Where I live, it’s quiet and nice for my family to come and visit.

My grandma loves it, she’s out all the time, she likes coming over for the weather and just to chill and stuff.

It's been a good season with the U20s this year


I have Portuguese lessons twice a week and the teacher sets me homework, so I’m getting better and I try to speak with the players in Portuguese even though a lot of them speak English.

At the start, I didn’t really understand anything but I’m getting used to it and even though I can’t speak fluently yet, I can pick up the words in a sentence and put it together, so I’m getting there.

I try to watch the television in Portuguese to see if I can follow it, and then I also watch English programmes with Portuguese subtitles to read and pick things up from there.

It’s all part of the experience of playing in another country and hopefully next season or when my time comes I’ll be ready to play regularly in the Benfica first team.

I want the coach to know that next season I'll be ready


It’s the back end of the season now and I want the coach to know that next season, I’m ready, so I just want to work hard and take my opportunities.

I’ve enjoyed this year with England too and I think we’ve done really well. We’ve come into the games and achieved our objectives with some good results.

Every time we’ve come together, it’s been positive on the ball and in our defending. We’ve shown that throughout the games and results that we’ve picked up.

After last season with the U19s, it was just a continuation of that, the team spirit was really strong and we had that winning feeling which carried on from the Euros.

You can feel it on the pitch, so hopefully we can keep that up. All of the teams in the England set-up now are doing really well and we’ve got some top young players, so it’s bright for the future.

By Chris Willock England U20s and Benfica