Amid Chelsea’s (somewhat typical) spending this summer, the arrival of Thiago Silva on a free transfer was greeted with as much curiosity as guarded enthusiasm. Will he, then at 35, now at 36, be able to keep performing at a high enough level to make the telling difference the Chelsea defense so very badly and clearly needed (even if we ignored the goalkeeper issue)? We’ve seen club legends like John Terry, Didier Drogba, or Frank Lampard himself make critical contributions at similar stages in their careers, but none of them had to also deal with a new team and a new league at the same time.
The answer, so far, is a resounding yes, just as it’s been a resounding yes for almost all of our new signings. But while the rest are undoubtedly looking forward to many years at the club, perhaps even outlasting the head coach — we are Abramovich’s Chelsea, after all — for the veteran center back, this is very much a last hurrah. A massive last hurrah, to be clear, but a last hurrah nonetheless.
Case in point, Silva’s old enough to have not only played against Lampard, but also have forgotten about playing against him. And shaking his hand. Perhaps that’s not such a ringing endorsement — to be so unmemorable just seven years later — but Silva assures that he’s quite proud to be playing for a legend of the modern game.
“When I was about to sign with Chelsea, when I said ok, [Lampard] sent me a message with a photo of us shaking hands as captains at the Maracanã, in the friendly between Brazil and England. It was a big surprise for me, because I didn’t remember that game.
“[But] I certainly didn’t hesitate to be coached by him. I’m happy that he enjoyed my work so much, I hope to do it in the best possible way to help Chelsea. It is a source of pride to be coached by a player I played against and was one of the greatest midfielders in the world. For me it is very joyful to share locker rooms, exchange ideas, and look to help in all the ways.”
This season of course may not be the last hurrah for Silva, regardless of how Chelsea go about addressing next summer’s transfer market. With an option for a second year built into his contract and the possibility of playing in the 2022 World Cup very much factoring in, Silva has every motivation to keep up his performances.
“I’m happy to have started in the Premier League with good numbers and convincing performances, and continuing with the Brazilian team, which is my goal. My performances on the pitch will keep me here, [where] I dedicate myself to the maximum in the qualifiers in order to qualify for the World Cup and then we see what happens.”
With the 2022 World Cup set to be played in the winter (thanks, FIFA), Silva would be 38, and one of the oldest to ever take part in the tournament. Given his current form, it’d be hard to bet against that happening.
Behind the scenes, the man famous for his clean-living — “he doesn’t drink, he doesn’t smoke, he doesn’t party” — is doing everything in his power to stay at the very top.
“I have a personal team that has been with me for two years, more or less, and has managed to change my eating routine a little. I ate a lot of bullsh*t, especially post-game, sometimes even before, and we know that in high-level football you need to take care of all sides: [...] preparation, prevention, training, I was normal. What was not was the food part...”
-Thiago Silva; source: UOL via Google Translate
Lampard, who certainly knows about similar concerns from the latter days of his playing career, has talked about carefully managing Silva’s minutes and workload. Keeping him healthy is of paramount importance.