On the Spot: Thiago Silva

Every week at The Center Circle, we are highlighting a different player in a feature we call “On the Spot”. We’ll take a look at superstars, underrated gems, aging veterans, and young unknowns who should be known. We’ll peruse their club and international careers, taking note of their teams, statistics, and highlight reels. We’ll illuminate their strengths and weaknesses and comment on their personalities and reputations. It will be some fun. If there is anyone you want to see “On the Spot”, feel free to comment below.

Thiago Silva

Thiago Silva on Fluminense

Thiago Silva is arguably the best central defender playing the game right now. His play with Paris Saint-Germain and the Brazilian national team has made him one of the most sought after talents in the world, and there could still be plenty of silverware on the horizon for the 30-year-old veteran.

Busy Youth Career

Thiago Silva’s career took a lot of twists and turns before he became the star that we know today. Several unsuccessful trials with top Brazilian clubs such as Fluminese and Botafogo. The young Brazilian was soon scouted by European clubs in various youth tournaments, but Silva decided to stay in Brazil with Juventude in the first division.

At the age of 20, the defender had emerged as one of the best young players in Brazil, and was named to the Brazilian league’s team of the season. The breakout season earned Silva a move to Portuguese giants FC Porto, but he was never able to break into the first team in his almost two years with the club. The lack of playing time led Silva to move abroad once more, this time to Dinamo Moscow. The move to Russia never paid dividends, however, as tuberculosis kept the Brazilian on the sidelines. The medical issue became so severe that Silva considered retirement, but luckily he decided to stay in the game.

Beginning to Emerge

AC Milan teammates Zlatan and Silva

After his tumultuous career beginnings, Thiago Silva returned from his European journey to join Fluminese in Brazil for the 2006 season. In his three years with the club, Silva emerged as a highly touted defensive talent and was part of Fluminese’s triumphant Brazilian Cup run in 2007. The string of strong defensive performances began to attract new interest from European suitors. Would another move to Europe finally see the young player fulfill his potential?

Despite his checkered European past, the legendary AC Milan brought the 25-year-old to the San Siro for a reported fee of €10 million. Silva was officially brought into the first team set up for the Rossoneri for the 2009-10 season, and was almost immediately brought into Leonardo’s starting eleven. In his first official season with the club, Silva started 42 games between the Champions League, FIFA Club World Cup and the Serie A scoring two league goals along the way.

The Brazilian defender would retain his spot in Milan’s starting lineup the following campaign despite the change of managers to Massimiliano Allegri. Silva started another 42 games in all competitions for the club and he registered one more league goal. The second season in Italy also came with two major pieces of silverware for the Brazilian defender as Milan captured the Serie A title and the Italian Cup. In his year with Milan, Silva would again make over 30 appearances for the club, but a serious injury late in the year forces the Brazilian out for seven weeks.

Viva La France

PSG center back Thiago Silva

After a dominant three seasons at the San Siro, another move for Thiago Silva was on the horizon. The 2012 summer was filled rumors, but in July, the big move finally transpired. An upstart Paris Saint-Germain brought in Silva for a fee of €42 million, and also brought his teammate Zlatan Ibrahimovic to the club as well.

No longer an unknown Brazilian talent, much was expected of Silva during his debut season in France’s Ligue 1. An injury before the transfer meant that the 27-year-old defender was forced to wait until a mid-September Champions League fixture against Dynamo Kiev where he managed to knock in a goal in the team’s 4-1 rout. PSG’s big money signing instantly fit into Carlo Ancelotti’s starting 11, and the move appeared to be the perfect fit, but an injury to start 2013 put a damper on Silva’s debut season in France. The injury came against AC Ajaccio on January 11, and Silva did not return to the field until the club’s Round of 16 Champions League matchup against Valencia nearly two months later. The injury-shortened season limited PSG’s new defender to just 22 league appearances, his fewest since leaving Fluminese in 2009. Despite the injuries, Silva was still able to add a French league title to his trophy cabinet at the end of the season.

In his sophomore season in France, injuries again limited Silva’s ability to be on the field. After hurting his hamstring in a late September matchup against Monaco, the Brazilian would have to wait six weeks to get back into the squad. Luckily for Silva, and all PSG fans, the rest of the 2013/14 season went off without another injury hitch. The prolonged stretch of games allowed the 28-year-old to further establish himself as one of the best defenders in the game. In addition to his fine defensive form, Silva also scored three goals in league competition (a career best). The second season in Paris came with even more silverware as PSG again claimed the Ligue 1 title, the League Cup and the Trophée des Champions.

2014/15 carried the same bad injury luck as the two previous seasons for Silva. Just after the start of the Ligue 1 season, the Brazilian was hurt in a friendly match against Napoli, and was forced to watch from the sidelines until late October. A disappointing first half of the season was followed by an incredible run in 2015. Silva’s impressive defensive performances earned praise from several media outlets and a handful of other players, but perhaps the most notable achievement came in a Round of 16 match against Chelsea in the Champions League. After conceding a late penalty to the London club, PSG were forced onto the back foot going into extra time. Silva atoned for his earlier defensive error by beating the Chelsea defensive and powering his headed effort into the side netting to secure a place in the quarterfinals. Although PSG would be eliminated in the next round by Barcelona, Silva would remain healthy for the remainder of the season and his play would help push PSG to a third consecutive Ligue 1 title, a French Cup triumph, a second straight League Cup and a third straight Trophée des Champions.

International Career

Brazil defender Thiago Silva

Thiago Silva made his debut for the Brazilian national team nearly seven years ago during Brazil’s Olympic tune-up matches before the 2008 Games in Beijing. Despite being called up for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the former Fluminese man was forced to spend all of the matches on the bench. It wasn’t until the 2011 Copa América that Silva finally earned playing time in a significant international tournament, but he was unable to prevent a disappointing early exit at the hands of Paraguay.

The defender’s first taste of international success didn’t come until the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil, where the home nation destroyed the reigning World Champions, Spain, 3-0 in the finals. His impressive displays with PSG earned Silva a key place in Brazil’s starting 11 during the 2014 World Cup, but an accumulation of yellow cards earned the star defender a suspension from the team’s semifinal matchup against Germany. Silva’s absence in the heart of the defense was very noticeable as the host nation was on the wrong end of an embarrassing 7-1 result against the eventual World champions.

Silva’s latest attempt at claiming another trophy for his nation came over the summer during the 2015 Copa América in Chile. Despite the amazing depth of talent present on the Brazilian roster, they again suffered the same result as they did in the 2011 tournament. A difficult match against Paraguay saw the Brazilians fall on penalties in the quarterfinals and yet another tournament ended in defeat for the historic soccer nation.

Playing Style

Few players play with the heart and passion that Thiago Silva does. This desire to play the game and play for his team can be clearly seen when he lines up on the field as he sacrifices his body to block shots, and clash with opposing forwards. Heart can only take you so far, and at some point talent has to take over. Luckily for PSG and Brazil, Silva has an abundance of that as well. A key part of playing in the center of defense is an ability to read the game so that you can break up plays without putting your team in unnecessary dangerous situations. One of the main reasons that the 30-year-old defender is able to make such great tackles is his ability to read the play and anticipate where his opponent is going to move. The Brazilian also possesses great pace for a defender and impressive mobility that allows him to make acrobatic clearances when needed. All of these traits make Thiago Silva one of the best defenders in the world today.

 

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About the author: Collin Carpio

 

I am currently a senior at the University of Missouri in the Journalism School. I have been an avid follower of Manchester United since 2006 and of course I support the Stars and Stripes. Due to my St. Louis high school allegiances, I am a big supporter of Brad Davis and Sporting KC in MLS.

 

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