Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian defender Thiago Silva looks on during the French League Cup final football match between Paris Saint-Germain vs Olympique Lyonnais at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis on July 31, 2020. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

Thiago Silva never imagined himself playing in England.

As a ball-playing center back, the Brazilian has watched Premier League games down the years and it just didn’t appeal to him.

“My impression of the football played was one of long balls, high balls, long-distance shots,” he recalls.

“My preference,” he added, “was to play football with the ball on the ground.”

So, how — at the age of 36 — has Thiago Silva ended up at Chelsea in perhaps the last big move of his distinguished career?

“Over time, I have seen that the league has developed tremendously,” he said Tuesday at his presentation as a Chelsea player. “There’s a lot more technical quality, a lot more teams playing with the ball on the ground, full backs attacking in the area.

“Little by little, the Premier League has won me over. Anyone who knows me can confirm that. At 36, I am arriving to play in the best league in the world.”

Thiago Silva’s last competitive game was for Paris Saint-Germain in a 1-0 loss to Bayern Munich in last month’s Champions League final in Lisbon.

Contrast that occasion with his likely debut for Chelsea, a low-profile English League Cup match against Barnsley, a team from the country’s second tier.

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard said he was ready to give the experienced center back some minutes in Wednesday’s game as the Brazilian builds up to full match fitness after a short offseason.

Bigger tests will come for Thiago Silva in the Premier League, and he doesn’t see himself struggling in what is widely regarded as the most physically intense division in the world.

“Age is just a number on your document,” he said. “Physically, I feel very young, I am very well prepared for this and I have been preparing my whole life.

“People who know me know how much I love my work and that I put in 200%. This is a great opportunity that Chelsea and Frank Lampard have given me. I don’t want to let them down.”

Thiago Silva will provide some much-needed leadership and experience to a Chelsea defense that has appeared naïve at times since Lampard joined in the summer of 2019.

He sees his role at Chelsea as not just a player, but a mentor for a young team that is trying to gel after the club’s offseason spending spree of more than $250 million.

“I think with all the experience in my career and everything, I think it’s important to show to the younger players that just playing the matches isn’t enough,” he said. “They need to be prepared and ready to be in the best state possible.

“They need to see how important it is to win things. Because I think people who are winners are remembered.”


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‘Age is just a number’: Thiago Silva takes plunge in England