No graph I make shows what the eye test is telling me. I’ve tried weighing passing stats against defensive stats and still nothing. The charts make it seem like this is actually a close contest when that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s sad because Thiago Silva is one of the most complete defenders I’ve ever watched and no combination of numbers I put together can properly display that.
T.Silva is a savant at his trade, he just does the basics of defending at such an elite level that he is capable of playing every CB role imaginable. You need a technically polished Center Half to play the Rolls Royce role? Silva does this when he plays with Kurt Zouma. You need an aggressive CB to set the defensive tone? Silva would assume this role every time he played with Alessandro Nesta. You need a proven leader who can switch between both roles on a dime? This is who Thiago Silva has been since he was 20 years old.
“It’s difficult to identify where he can still improve. He has already proven to have everything.”
—Franco Baresi in 2012 describing a then 28 year old Thiago Silva.
It’s been 9 years since this Franco Baresi gave this quote, it’s also been 9 years since AC Milan in a deep financial rut sold Thiago Silva to PSG for what was at the time a world record fee paid for a defender. Never mind all of the success Silva achieved in France for his legacy this was the worst possible move. If Thiago Silva had spent his prime in a more popular League maybe then he would be getting the appropriate appreciation he deserves at the twilight of his career. Instead he spent them in a League no one really rates casually dropping 8 out of 10s weekly.
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, did it make a sound? If Thiago Silva kept 10 clean sheets while conceding only 11 League goals in his first 20 Ligue 1 games, does it really mean anything? What is Thiago Silva’s value to PSG if late in his first season with Silva out PSG still win away from home to 2nd place Marseille who finished the league season scoring a putrid 42 goals in 38 league games? They could’ve probably walked the league without him and that makes establishing his value during his PSG years quite difficult. Silva needed to be in an actual competitive league during his prime where his chameleon like skill set could be fully appreciated by a contender and their fan base, instead we have arguably the best defender of his era having no stand out seasons for us as fans to look back to with fondness. This is very sad as it is this word of mouth that keeps you relevant and propels your legacy in football. Nemanja Vidic left United close to 7 years ago but you still hear his praises and would think he never dropped anything below a 9/10 because he spent his prime at the right club.
Thiago’s Silva skillset is all we really have to remember him by. A former CDM who transitioned to being a CB, Silva never lost the elegance and grace all great midfielders play with. He appears to be a calming presence in every back line he starts and I don’t know if this comes from his time in midfield but he seems well talented in adjusting his game to fit his partners skillset and bring the best out of them. This ability is so rare in CB’s and is what really separates him from majority of his peers. Most of our clubs are usually stuck with two center backs with distinct roles. One plays destroyer while the other plays the finesse CB role and for some unlucky clubs out there like United and Arsenal you have one CB trying to play both roles and failing. For any team out there Thiago Silva can carve a role out for himself and be perfect fit in that chosen role.
At 36 Thiago Silva has walked into what was an unstable backline(54 goals conceded in 38 games last season) and with his multi face defending and leadership traits stabilized the entire backline into a respectable defensive unit. To me he could do this at Arsenal, Barcelona, United and many other places. Silva is a throw back Serie A defender and looking at many of the great defenders of Serie A from the 90s to 00s those guys (Zanetti, Maldini and Nesta) could play forever because they fit every scenario never allowing the game to pass them by even if it meant switching positions to remain elite.
I have Silva with an A+ grade in my profile and I constantly set him as the standard when I try and evaluate a young defender. With traditional positions meaning less every day Multi Faced defenders in the mold of Silva will become hot commodities for majority of Europe’s top sides(e.g. Upamecano). As these new kids make waves and build their names it would be cruel to see Silva fade into just another elite name defender in football’s long history. At the very least he can exist as the reference by which all his clones are judged by.