Chelsea supporters voted Thiago Silva as their men’s Player of the Season by an overwhelming majority, the defender’s consistently classy performances and rapport with the fans earning him the accolade for the first time. Here we speak to Thiago about that recognition, feeling supported during tough times, and why he hopes his family name will be associated with Chelsea for many more years to come…

There is very little Thiago Silva has not seen during his 20-year long professional career, one spanning six countries, nearly 900 games, and over a century of caps for his native Brazil.

But in the couple of minutes before kick-off in our home game against Nottingham Forest earlier this month, there was genuine wide-eyed emotion etched across Thiago’s face. Having shaken hands with the opposition players and started moving towards the Matthew Harding Stand to undergo his pre-game ritual, he couldn’t miss the two banners at either end of Stamford Bridge.

Hanging from the Shed, with the Brazilian flag as a backdrop, Thiago’s right hand is placed on the Chelsea badge, a customary movement when he thanks Blues fans after games. Surfing across the Matthew Harding Lower was another huge flag. Thiago is grasping the Champions League trophy and the accompanying words - ‘He came from PSG, to win the Champions League’ – recognise both the chant that is regularly sung at games, and his lifelong ambition of lifting Europe’s top prize.

It was a very emotional moment for me, especially because in spite of the bad season we have had, fans still wanted to show me their support,’ Thiago tells us.

‘It's been a hard year, so the recognition fills me with happiness, pride and pleasure for being part of this team.

‘From my first day here, I have been warmly welcomed by Chelsea fans and so my commitment is even greater than before because I know we need to respond to them with better performances on the pitch and give them the response they deserve.

‘At one point we were all fans and we know what it feels like to love the players in a team, and how the supporters suffer,’ he continues.

‘So we recognise that it’s not easy for them to show that love in moments like this. I want to say that it’s important to recognise that if we were in this particular situation in another country, we would likely not receive the love we have received here at Chelsea. We’d probably be received with bad language or abuse, but we didn’t get that here, and it shows the love that the fans have for us.’

For Thiago Silva in particular it feels like there is an extra special bond between him and the Blues faithful: the manner in which he has handled himself during good times and bad; the dedication to his craft; the quality of his performances; those celebrations in the stands when Emerson scored against Atletico Madrid. How could you not adore him?

My relationship with the Chelsea supporters is hard to put into words,’ he smiles.

‘It was love at first sight. I feel really happy here. It’s not easy to come to a new club with not much time on your contract at the beginning and be applauded from the beginning, shown so much love. It just goes to show how successful my career has been – I’m really proud to be at Chelsea and I just want them to continue to be successful.

‘It feels particularly amazing when they are able to applaud us knowing that the situation is not great, but not fully understanding because they can’t imagine what we’re going through. So it’s important that we show our gratitude for that.

‘Things obviously haven’t happened the way we wanted them to this season. It’s the hardest season I can remember having and it’s been really tough for me this year. I’m just thinking about looking forward towards a better future.’

Thiago says he feels a responsibility to help the club ‘on and off the pitch, for the reformulation of the squad’, following a period of major transition.

The guidance he can pass on to younger defenders such as Wesley Fofana and Benoit Badiashile was an important factor in his contract extension, which he adds ‘shows I have faith in the club and how we can do a lot better.’

At 38, Thiago is not just thinking about himself, though. His wife and two boys are settled in England, and for different reasons have provided extra cause to stay at Chelsea.

‘The club is really important to all of us – it’s a mutual love. My wife, for instance, takes the underground to games and when she gets off the train people recognise her and start to sing my name to her! That just shows the love that they have for us, and we have for them.

‘I need to live close to Cobham because I have to focus more on my personal care and treatment. But I know my wife goes to London a lot, far more than I do, and I know she really likes it – she says it’s a very welcoming city. Bit by bit, we are feeling more and more like Londoners.

‘The whole family have fallen in love with Chelsea. My sons, Isago and Iago, both play for Chelsea. Isago has extended his contract here for the next two seasons, which means we are going to be here for two years. We just hope it’s more!’

For all Chelsea supporters, so many of whom chose Thiago as their star man this season, the feeling is mutual.