However, despite all his recent success, he was something of a late comer to the highest level of the game. He started his career in the Brazilian amateur leagues before turning professional with regional third-division side RS Futebol as a teenager. His performances in midfield as they achieved promotion secured him a move to the top flight with Juventude aged 20, where his switch to centre-back resulted in him catching the eye with some impressive performances.
Europe soon came calling and he signed for Porto in 2004, but it turned out to be a false start. Following a year acclimatising to a new continent with the Portuguese side’s ‘B’ team, he went to Dinamo Moscow, but missed the entire season after being hospitalised with a life-threatening illness in Russia.
Despite fearing an early retirement, Thiago Silva was offered a return to Brazil with hometown side Fluminense, where he had spent time as a trialist as a youngster. There he fully recovered to repay their faith in him by helping them to win their first-ever Copa do Brasil. His performances over three years back in Rio de Janeiro helped him break into the national team squad and be voted by fans as the top division’s best player, before getting a second shot at European football in 2009.
This time there were no setbacks as he instantly became a key player in the AC Milan defence, with club legends Paolo Maldini and Franco Baresi naming him as their natural successor. He proved them correct by becoming the first foreigner to captain the club in 50 years and playing a starring role as they claimed the Serie A title in 2011.