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Saturday, May 21, 2022

Marina Granovskaia genius PSG call ensures Thomas Tuchel will keep Chelsea's standout legend

  There were only two candidates I had to pick from for my Chelsea player of the season. One was Antonio Rudiger, who will leave the club...

 

There were only two candidates I had to pick from for my Chelsea player of the season. One was Antonio Rudiger, who will leave the club after his best in blue, transforming from a once inconsistent figure into one of the squad's best.

The other, which is my choice, is Thiago Silva – who has continued to defy logic with his levels of consistency at the highest levels despite nearing the age of 40 in one of the most physically demanding leagues in world football.

I was one of those who initially doubted his arrival from PSG in the summer of 2020. Worrying about the pace of the game, the struggles of older defenders coming into the league late in their career and how much he could actually be relied upon.

Soon all our fears were made to look comically out of touch. Silva slotted into the centre of Chelsea's defence and quickly established himself as one of the Premier League's wisest minds. That has only gone up to another level in 2021/22.

To many, his performances in his first year would have been enough to justify Marina Granovskaia's decision to hand him a new contract, but his level of durability and focus in his second has cemented his place as one of the club's best acquisitions in the last decade.

"He is the Benjamin Button of football." Thomas Tuchel famously said back in January following the announcement of a deal to keep him at Stamford Bridge till 2023 "I know how much work, how much professional attitude is behind that." Tuchel continued in the same press conference.

"It is a miracle in a way because with this league, this schedule, this intensity of a daily business at the very end of his career, it was a very brave decision for him, but I know how much effort he puts in to stay fit.

"Off the pitch, taking care of his recovery, sleep, nutrition, this is simply outstanding and only because of that it is possible."


The defender has made 47 appearances this season, 13 more than last year and eight more in the league. A thigh problem in January of 2021 did rule him out for some time, comparatively, he has only missed games through a knee issue and COVID, or after a late return from international duty with Brazil.

Watching Silva live gives you a greater appreciation of his brilliance. How quickly he spots the chance to step forward and precisely intercept an opposition pass, the way he covers space left by others. Despite being under six-foot, Silva regularly judges where a high ball is going to land – placing his body in the right place to block an opponent and get the first contact.

It is hard not to correlate his presence with the vast improvement of Rudiger and Andreas Christensen in a back-three. Or the knowledge the younger Trevoh Chalobah would have picked up this term, helping to form Chelsea's strongest back-three, keeping clean sheets against Liverpool in two cup finals, and also being present for the brilliant wins in November against Leicester and Juventus.

Granovskaia has received a lot of flack for her handling of the defensive contract situation, which will see both Rudiger and Christensen depart only one summer after she signed off on the sales for younger options in Fikayo Tomori and Marc Guehi. But the security of Silva remaining is a big plus, even if Tuchel's once rigid defence has looked fragile in the closing weeks of this season.

On the supporter side, Silva is widely beloved, with his wife Belle growing a following due to her continued support for Chelsea on social media, posting videos of herself inside the stadium cheering the team on from the West Stand Lower. Even with the language barrier, Silva has had little struggle connecting to the Chelsea faithful.

When speaking on how he keeps up this extraordinary level in the twilight of his career, the defender said,

"The first thing is preparation, the organisation, not just from the players but from all our the staff. I have a really good relationship with the staff.

"It's great if I am feeling tired. I can speak to the coaching staff, and I can say that it might be risky to play certain matches, and we think about it, and we decide whether it's best to play or to rest. The relationship we have means we can speak freely to each other. We don't hide things, and we speak clearly.

"Then it's about recovery after every match. I am somebody who doesn't go out much, I stay at home with my family, and I recover at home as well."


In a season of uncertainty and, at times, chaos, Silva has remained a constant standout on the pitch. His levels of professionalism and excellence are traits Tuchel would wish to have across his squad, and Silva will likely form a key part of the German's new-look defence come August when the 2022/23 campaign kicks off.

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