After a hugely impressive first 12 months as an AC Milan player, 2010-11 was the season Thiago Silva truly marked himself out as one of the world’s top defenders.
It was the consistent dominance of the Brazilian’s performances at the back which laid the platform for the San Siro outfit’s successful title push as they conceded only seven goals in the second half of the league campaign.
|"He is arguably the strongest centre-back in the world. Last season he demonstrated great things, but this season he has improved, is still maturing, and is showing in every game that he's practically a monster."
- Massimiliano Allegri
Having failed to pin down a place in the starting line-up for the Selecao’s run to the quarter-finals of the World Cup in South Africa, Thiago Silva hit the ground running, scoring Milan’s second goal of the season in the 4-0 opening day win over Lecce.
|MOMENT OF THE SEASON
AC MILAN 3-0 INTER
|With the title on the line, the Brazilian's dominant defensive effort laid the platform for a crushing victory from which the Rossoneri kicked on to glory.
Following the 2-0 defeat at Cesena in the next game, the centre-back would go on to rack up the phenomenal record of only taking part in one more defeat (away to Palermo in March) and also only a single multiple-goal concession (the 4-4 draw with Udinese in January) in the remainder of the league campaign.
But it was in more than just numbers that the former Fluminense man was starting to move on to another level. With Alessandro Nesta beside him beginning to show signs of weariness, and other partners such as Daniele Bonera and Mario Yepes unable to match his quality, he could regularly be found doing the work of two men. His magnificent sense of anticipation, superb acceleration, excellent positioning and fantastic reading of the game regularly helped to plug gaps in either defensive flank.
Playing the majority of the season as the left-sided centre-half despite being right footed, he constantly showed an ability few other defenders have in his comfort in defending to either side. The number of occasions he was turned by an opposition forward could be counted on one finger, despite only playing in his natural channel when partnered by Yepes in the absence of Nesta.
This, allied to his natural upper-body strength, excellent aerial ability and thirst for a challenge, made him the near-complete defender in 2010-11, with his coach Massimiliano Allegri referring to him exclusively in superlatives when asked about his No. 33’s qualities. “He defended almost by himself,” said Allegri after a Coppa Italia draw with Palermo. “He is arguably the strongest centre-back in the world. Last season he demonstrated great things, but this season he has improved, is still maturing, and is showing in every game that he’s practically a monster.”
After an excellent andata, it was during the run-in that the Brazilian’s ability most came to the fore. With the Rossoneri short of numbers defensively at times, which would prove costly in the narrow defeat to Tottenham in the Champions League, the ease with which he carried his side to clean sheets and victories domestically was amazing to watch.
|"His anticipation, acceleration, positioning and reading of the game, allied to his natural upper-body strength, excellent aerial ability and thirst for a challenge, made him the near-complete defender in 2010-11."|
In the vital wins over Napoli, Juventus and Inter in the run-in, Thiago Silva was simply irrepressible. In the derby in particular, he was the biggest reason why the Nerazzurri were held out during the long periods in which they pushed for an equaliser after Alexandre Pato’s early opener, keeping Giampaolo Pazzini’s contribution to a minimum.
With Milan having clinched the title against Roma with another clean sheet, the 18th in 33 games with the Brazilian present, the defender’s attention turned to the Copa America. There he was a part of the side which reached the quarter-finals before falling on penalties against Paraguay, Thiago Silva’s effort being saved as Brazil missed all four spot-kicks.
After an incredible season on a personal level, it would be tempting to say the only way is down. But somehow, he could yet continue to improve in his relentless pursuit for recognition as the world's greatest defender.