In a broad and revealing first interview since joining Chelsea, Thiago Silva explains how his experience can help an evolving team, details his enduring hunger for success and recalls past clashes with the Blues.
Although Thiago Silva has yet to make his Chelsea debut following his arrival from Paris Saint-Germain last month, the Brazilian has been acclimatising to life at Cobham and is clearly eager to get started. Following a period of rest after his involvement in the Champions League final, the defender has been in London for the past couple of weeks and recently joined training with his new team-mates and boss Frank Lampard.
Now, he has his sights set on forcing his way into a Blues defence with plenty of competition for places. Here, in an exclusive interview with the official Chelsea website, we get the first words from our new number six...
Thiago Silva, welcome to Chelsea! What was it that attracted you to the club?
First and foremost, I came because Chelsea is an amazing team and one of the biggest clubs in the world. It helps when you’re welcomed so warmly, particularly by a coach who played until relatively recently, because in football there are very strong preconceptions regarding the age of players. But I know about his experience when he first arrived at Manchester City, theoretically at the end of his career. He endured the same sort of thing as I’ve gone through.
So even from the outside, without knowing me personally, he knows how hard I work to remain at the highest level. The confidence that he showed in me - that was all it took. For me, that confidence was the single most important factor. To hear that he believed in me, that he thought that I could come here and make a positive contribution. With our young group, as well as some more experienced players like our captain [Cesar] Azpilicueta, we’ve got all it takes for a great season.
You can be sure that I’ll do everything I can to repay that confidence out on the pitch. We’ve signed some top players and we’ve got a squad capable of putting together a great season so that’s what we’re going to try and do.
How much are you looking forward to the season ahead with Chelsea, and to playing in the Premier League for the first time?
I really can’t wait. I have to try and hold it back but it’s almost uncontrollable because this is a unique opportunity for me. Normally, at 35 or 36 years of age, it’s the time when players leave the Premier League but I’m doing things the other way around - I’m only just starting.
The way I see it, it’s the toughest league in the world, with six or seven big teams genuinely fighting for the title so the motivation is massive. I’m hugely impatient to get going but things will happen in their own time and there’s no doubt I’ll be totally prepared when the time comes.
At 36, you've achieved so much in the game so what still motivates you?
What motivates me, day by day, is the hunger to win. To win everything within my reach. Coming to the Premier League, my main goal is to win the league title and I’m certain that we’ll be fighting for that every step of the way. The team is really strong, we’ve got a great coach and I’ve come here to contribute in whatever way I can to ensure that we get as close as possible to achieving those aims. That’s what motivates me: stepping out onto the pitch, and then winning, winning, and winning some more. I don’t think about anything else.
As I’ve said before, the prospect of playing at the next World Cup is another thing that really drives me. I’ll be more or less 38 years old by the time of the next World Cup and I’m hugely motivated to be in good shape for it.
The work that I’m putting in to make this a reality already started a while back and now Chelsea have given me a great opportunity to continue playing at the highest level. What Chelsea represents to me is a source of great happiness and motivation to be a part of a new project, a new family and I hope that this will be a very special year together.
You joined PSG at the start of a new era for that club. Does it feel like something similar is happening at Chelsea?
No, I wouldn’t say it’s similar. When I arrived at PSG, the club had just been taken over by the Qataris. They were going through an unprecedented phase of reconstruction. That was the very beginning of it all - they were building things that PSG had never experienced as a club and I was really proud to be a part of that project, which led to the club being recognised all around the world and to a Champions League final particularly because I was a part of it right from the start.
But things are different here. Chelsea have already won a Champions League final, the project has been in place for a while now. The club has gone a few years without spending big money, without regenerating the squad, but now we’re starting again on a new journey with some big signings. I hope that this reboot will bring the same success as the club has enjoyed in the past. I hope to be able to play my part out on the pitch, and I hope that this reboot proves to be just as successful as the project I helped experience at PSG.
What are your memories of playing against Chelsea?
They were huge games, with great players on both sides: [Didier] Drogba, with his physical strength; Diego [Costa], who’s always a complete nightmare to play against! They were tough matches, both over here and in Paris. I think that PSG had the better of those matches but it could easily have gone the other way because games at the highest level between two great teams always come down to the smallest details.
On those occasions, I think that PSG just about came out on top. When I think about them now, the incident that comes to mind is the penalty I gave away for handball. I was jumping with [Kurt] Zouma and my arm bounced off his shoulder and struck the ball. Also, the goal that I scored to make it 2-2 which sealed qualification for us in England, which was extremely important for me and PSG at that time.
But that’s all changed now - I’m with Chelsea and I’m going to do everything to ensure we give the best possible account of ourselves and come as close as possible to achieving the aims that we’ve set for the season.
There are strong Brazilian traditions at Chelsea. Can you tell us about playing with some of our former Brazilians such as Alex, David Luiz, Willian, Oscar and Ramires for both club and country?
They’re all top, top players. But then, Chelsea always look for players who can perform at the very highest level. The experience of having played alongside Ramires, David Luiz, Oscar, Willian, they’re incredible experiences. There’s still the opportunity to play together with Brazil and I hope that we get that chance again soon. But they’re the sort of experiences that stay with you for life because they’re not just great players but also great people away from the pitch and they’re friendships that will last a lifetime.
Are Chelsea a big club in Brazil?
Not just in Brazil, but all over the world. Chelsea has a very strong brand. In Brazil, Chelsea is considered one of the best teams in England, up there with Liverpool, Man City, Man United and so on. There are a few teams that carry a certain weight and Chelsea is among them.
I’m really happy to be a part of this project and I hope that by coming here I’ll help to raise the profile of Chelsea even further in Brazil, by bringing my own fans and the fans of Fluminense, where I’m an idol. I hope that they all start supporting Chelsea now too. And I hope that we achieve our goals and bring joy to our fans out in Brazil too.
You played against Frank Lampard at the first game at the revamped Maracana in 2013, when you both captained your national teams. What was your impression of him from afar?
It was a long time ago now, so it’s hard to talk about that particular game but I could see his quality whenever I saw him playing for England or Chelsea. He stood out for his technique, for the quality of his long and short passing, and his exceptional mid- and long-range shooting. Those are qualities that fans of great football will always notice. Quality players stick in your mind and you need that to be the captain of England, not just leadership. Actually, the two go hand-in-hand - you need the quality as a player to be able to lead the group and that’s what he had.
He had the necessary qualities to be a captain because people saw what a great player he was. As for the game, it was very tight. England went ahead twice, they made it 1-0, we equalised, they made it 2-1 and then Fred scored right at the death. That game served as a real springboard for us because soon after we were playing the Confederations Cup final against Spain, who were world champions at the time.
That draw against English served us really well, as in the final we beat Spain 3-0 and played really well. We were really proud of that. We prepared for the tournament by drawing against a world-class team in England and then we got to the final against the then-champions, Spain, who had won the World Cup in South Africa.
What do you want to achieve in your time at Chelsea?
My aim is to win. As I said before, it’s a young team and we’re aiming to win as many games as possible. We know that the opposition will never make life easy for us and will have prepared to win the game but I will work as hard as I can from the very start. I always say that if you have a match tomorrow, then you can’t start preparing for it today. Preparation doesn’t work like that; it happens over a period of time.
From what I see, Chelsea are preparing really well for this new season. Of course, there are going to be times when things don’t go 100 per cent to plan because we’ve got a lot of new players and sometimes that takes time. But I think that if you’re working with top players, it comes much easier. After a couple of games, you build an understanding. Very soon, you only need to glance at one another, you don’t even need to say anything.
Being at a big club, winning trophies, that’s what drives me on. From my perspective, I’m doing everything to ensure that I can deliver the very best of myself. It gets to the point where my wife is fed up with me because I’m completely dedicated to ensuring that I’m in the best shape possible for every game. When the game’s over, the first thing I do is to watch it back to look for things that I did wrong. So as you can imagine, I get on her nerves! But she’s very proud of what I do.
Finally, what message would you send to the Chelsea fans?
I’m arriving 100 per cent motivated for this new project. I’m not just here for the experience, I’m here to win. I hope that they believe, just as we do, that this is going to be a very special year and one full of success for the club.
Thiago Silva will be giving his first press conference as a Chelsea player at 4pm tomorrow (Tuesday). You can watch it live on this website and the 5th Stand app.