The defender discusses how he masters rest, recovery and match preparation to remain at his peak for both club and country...
Thiago Silva will be a few months short of his 39th birthday when his current Chelsea contract is due to expire next summer, though there are no signs of the veteran defender slowing down anytime soon.
His commitment to representing Brazil at the World Cup in Qatar at the end of 2022 has been long-stated and his involvement in our FA Cup quarter-final win at Middlesbrough last weekend took him one clear of last season’s 34 club appearances.
In fact, only Jorginho and Antonio Rudiger have amassed more outfield minutes for the Blues in all competitions this campaign, a remarkable feat but one less surprising when you consider the extensive nature of his rest, recovery and match preparation.
Ever since he contracted tuberculosis as a 20-year-old playing on loan in Russia, an undignified illness that not only threatened his career but also his life, Thiago Silva has been well attuned to the cries and challenges of his body.
During three years at AC Milan, the centre-back benefited from working closely with the pioneering Milan Lab, a proactive painstakingly detailed programme that focused on preventing rather than treating injuries. Its methods were credited with helping Paolo Maldini play at the top level into his 40s, something Thiago Silva has previously admitted is an ambition of his own.
‘I hope I can do the same thing that Maldini did at Milan, playing until he was 40 or 41 years old,’ he said last year. ‘That’s my plan for the immediate future and I have prepared myself for that.’
Preparation is a byword for Thiago Silva’s longevity and there is plenty of thought that goes into how he spends every minute of his time in between games to ensure he arrives in peak physical condition for training and especially matches.
That has also evolved over the years, both as new methods have emerged but also as his body has changed in the twilight of his footballing career.
‘When you’re young, you think you’re a superhero,’ he admitted. ‘I’d play one game a day so in terms of recovery it was a lot quicker, whereas now 24 hours seems like no time at all in which to recover.
‘You’ve always got to be active and up to speed with the new recovery methods out there. I’ve got lots of things I do at home like physio work, and nowadays I’ve got a better diet than before. You need to fuel yourself well, not with the bad stuff.
‘This is part of what I’ve got to do so that I can optimise this recovery process, which for me needs to be quicker.’
Thiago Silva has installed a hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber at his Surrey home, which helps to increase oxygen levels in the blood to speed up muscle repair. He uses it every day and has even convinced some of his Chelsea team-mates to purchase one of their own.
Open communication is also key and his relationship with Blues boss Thomas Tuchel, whom he worked with at previous club Paris Saint-Germain for two years, has been particularly important. They speak freely about his physical condition on a weekly basis, navigating the relentless fixture schedule that has seen Chelsea play more games this term than any team in Europe.
After close to a decade in the French capital, Thiago Silva’s switch to London has undoubtedly paid off and he was finally able to get his hands on that elusive Champions League trophy last May in Porto. The big move has worked a treat.
‘I wasn’t apprehensive but after eight years at a club, I was making such a big move at what is theoretically the tail end of my career, for many players at least,’ he added.
‘So many people had their doubts whether I’d be able to play to the same standard here as I did at PSG but I never had any doubts of how I’d perform for the club. I feel like I’ve kept up my standard here at Chelsea bearing in mind it’s the best league in the world.
‘I left a big club but joined a big one as well. I stayed at a high level and I’m really proud of how it’s gone but it’s been a lot of hard work to keep up those high standards.’