Ostracised? Outcast? Forgotten? Thiago Silva’s international career looks to have taken a stopgap under Brazil head coach Dunga. The 1994 World Cup winning captain has not selected the PSG skipper for any World Cup qualifying matches since he took over following the 2014 tournament in his homeland. A competition that will always be remembered for that infamous 7-1 bashing they suffered at the hands of Germany. Fingers were pointed, names called out. And Thiago Silva, despite not playing in that game, was one of those to take the brunt. These days though, he is showing the club form that’s on par with his inaugural season at the Parc des Princes. So with that being said, his exclusion from the Selecao may be a key reason for that.
You have to go back to that World Cup though in the summer of 14 for when things started to rock for the player and his international future. The 31-year-old’s refusal to take a penalty in the last-16 shootout against Chile was deemed unforgivable by his public. This was a time for men to stand up to be counted in a high-pressured situation. But, we have to be brutally honest here; Silva bottled it. There is no denying that the pressure of taking a penalty in the knockout stages of a World Cup – let alone in your host nation – is off the scale. But, when your nation is looking for characters to step up to the plate, you would expect your captain to be there in the line of duty.
That really wrangles with the Brazilian public. They perceived it as weak. He also sat away from the rest of his teammates before the shootout. He came out after and said he was saying a prayer but it just did not sit right with the Brazilians. They felt he should have been there with his peers, undertaking his role as a national captain.
Then there was his booking in the quarter-final against Colombia, which ruled him out of the semi versus Germany. It was a yellow card that was needless to say the least as he obstructed the goalkeeper from kicking the ball. Neymar, the talisman was out due to a back injury, and Silva’s absence compounded the hosts to their fate against Germany in without doubt the most shocking result in FIFA World Cup history.
Romario, a legend in Brazil for his exploits in the 1994 World Cup win, was very dismissive of the player in an interview with L’Equipe back in October. Asked on TS’s possible return to the national team he said; “It’s over for him, the train has left the station. He demonstrated that he did not have enough personality to wear the Brazil shirt. If I was the coach I would not select him. I’m not questioning his quality as a footballer. I just wonder about his psychological strength. In this regard, he’s failed across the board.”
That is the key. Nobody in his homeland doubts his ability as a player – he is one of the world’s best centre-backs on his day – but it’s his attitude that is questioned, as Romario alluded to.
Dunga said last month in an interview though with FOX Sports that his staff were monitoring Silva and he could be selected at some point. However, he still has not forgot the reaction after giving the captaincy to Neymar when Silva was out injured in September of 2014. Neymar has kept it ever since but it was the outburst to the media which irked his national coach. Silva came out and said in an interview with Goal.com; “Sincerely, I didn’t expect this. I would be lying if I said it didn’t annoy me. It feels like something was taken away from me that was mine. It’s painful and makes me sad. Especially because no one has come to talk to me about this. Neymar didn’t approach me. But, I think we must be prepared for everything, somehow, even if I thought I was going to come and play. I have to be ready to be on the bench also.”
Again, it was just another incident that did not endear him to the Brazilian public or his new coach.
Then there was last summer’s Copa America where he gave away a penalty in the quarter-final against Paraguay for one of the most blatant handballs you will ever see. His team were leading at the time but ended up bowing out on penalties. The finger again was firmly pointed at TS. Had he not handled the ball then who knows what might have happened? But, there is little room for forgiveness from the sport’s most fanatical nation.
There is light at the end of the tunnel. Whatever his compatriots think of him is another story, it’s what he’s done in blue that matters for the supporters of Paris Saint-Germain. When many thought he was on the wane, he has come back with vigour this season. Without doubt one of our biggest stalwarts, showing the form of his first season at the club where he didn’t put a foot wrong.
He is an emotional guy. That is not a bad thing at all. His sensitivity does get criticised, as he is the captain at the end of the day. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is perceived more as the leader of the locker room and whenever he takes the armband when Silva is absent, you feel that aura rub off on the team.
Silva has been skipper at the club ever since he rolled on through the door in 2012. Carlo Ancelotti, who was coach at the time, initially gave the armband to Christophe Jallet before giving it to the Brazilian within a matter of weeks of his arrival. That was the confidence the Italian had in him and it was a shrewd decision.
He is very much a club man these days. His time at the club has included constant links to the likes of Barcelona but after three/four years in Paris, he feels at home. I remember the gesture he made on the last day of last season to give the retiring Zoumana Camara the honour of lifting the league title to mark his retirement. That is not the act of a selfish man. That is the act of a classy individual. He recognised the contribution Camara had on the locker room, and the club as a whole due to his service. It was touching gesture and one the fans can appreciate.
Then there were his comments at the back end of November about wanting to finish his career in Paris. At 31, he still has five good years ahead of him – perhaps even more. Following his form this season, it can only be music to the ears of Paris’ supporters. He was speaking after the 4-1 win over Troyes which was symbolised by the tribute to those affected in the Paris attacks. TS exclaimed; “I want to finish my career here. I need to speak with the president to see if he agrees or not. I was very moved by the tribute tonight. Paris has become my second city after Rio.I really like this city. I live here with my family, my son is growing up here. He has the right conditions for him to grow well in Europe – the city of Paris is great for kids.”
You cannot ask for anymore from a player when he is as sincere is that. The man has been absolutely integral to PSG’s success since 2012. He will go down as the most decorated captain in the club’s history, and will probably never be matched.
He may have his critics in his homeland. And he may not have covered himself in glory at times in regards to his international commitments. But, his contribution to this football club is undeniable and its fantastic to see him showing the form again that once had him regarded as the world’s best centre-back.
Last night he was named in the FIFPro Team of the Year during the Ballon d’Or Gala – for his exploits in Paris rather than for his homeland. Although some would not agree with his inclusion, it emphasises his re-emergence at the very top.