Thiago Silva says it's strictly business for Brazil at the Olympics
World's most expensive defender tells Andy Brassell the quest for first Olympic gold is no laughing matter
As the dust settled after Brazil's comprehensive win over Team GB in Middlesbrough last Friday, there was little of the normal hand-wringing that accompanies international defeat among the hosts. Craig Bellamy emerged from the Riverside's changing rooms in positively sunny mood. His team-mate Jack Cork recognised the difference in the two teams' respective outlooks, telling journalists: "They're taking it very seriously, and we're taking it quite seriously."
Thiago Silva was the image of the Brazilians; sturdy, serious and upright. While the soundtrack of samba drums followed Mano Menezes' team to the North-east of England, as it does everywhere, there was a distinct lack of frivolity around the team. Both they and Silva, now the most expensive defender in the world, mean business in Britain.
Silva has had a busy couple of weeks. A fortnight ago, he completed a move from Milan to Paris St-Germain for an initial €42m (£32.75m). The world-record deal for a defender was sealed at the second attempt, after Silvio Berlusconi personally pulled the plug on last month's initial agreement at the eleventh hour.
"I went through quite an unsettling time," he told The Independent after the match. "On the first try, we were frustrated. For the second time it was a bit more… I suppose we could say complicated, because I was focused on the national team and then news was coming to me [at the training camp] that the discussions had reopened, so I was having to put myself back into that a little bit. Thank God everything was resolved before the start of the Olympics, so I could just concentrate on this, and look towards our objectives [in this tournament]."
It has been made clear that those objectives comprise making the most of some rare competitive games on the road to hosting World Cup 2014 – and claiming a first Olympic gold, an unscratched itch that is driving Brazil to distraction. Team GB may have been amenable first opponents since reaching British shores, but Silva believes his team's performance spoke of a group mentally and physically ready for bigger challenges to come. "It was a game that went to the plan that we expected it to," he nodded. "We had a few difficulties at the start, but then we managed to control it all the way through to the end. The whole team put plenty of good pressure on them and we created a lot of clear goalscoring opportunities."
Similarly dominant performances will be expected of Silva's new club when he gets to work shortly after the Olympics. With the start of the Ligue 1 season just over a fortnight away, Silva is not expected to get a break before attempting to meet the sizeable expectation of his new public.
Having admitted last week that his decision to leave Milan was "not 100 per cent mine", he is eager to get started alongside fellow Rossoneri alumnus Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Like the Swede, he was swayed to move to France by PSG's naked ambition. "It's a club that's growing every day and every year," he enthused, "and like Ibra said, [PSG] have managed to form a Dream Team in reality."
The 27-year-old is clearly pleased with the acquisitions of some fellow stars of Serie A, but was already impressed by the ability of the squad Carlo Ancelotti inherited. "They've already put together a very strong team," he said. "All the defence is strong, the midfield is of very high quality with [Momo] Sissoko and Thiago Motta, who got within one game of winning the Euros. The front line is something you can't argue with, with the two players who have arrived now [Ezequiel] Lavezzi [from Napoli] and Ibra, to add to Nene and [Jérémy] Ménez, who were already there."
Unlike Ibrahimovic, Silva is yet to be presented to the fans, having signed his contract in Brazil's training camp. Perhaps the most notable facet of Ibrahimovic's own debut press conference was the rhetoric of club president Nasser al-Khelaifi, rather than anything the player himself said. Khelaifi didn't once mention the Ligue 1 title that France already assumes PSG will coast to. His aim is the Champions League, and conquering the world.
His new centre-back is clearly thinking along the same lines, despite ostensibly wishing to avoid putting the cart before the horse. "Look, we have to work hard every day first," he warned, "but we have an idea of what we want to do. We have a team that can make history."
Firstly, he will aim to do likewise for Brazil. "We stood up for ourselves well defensively [against GB], and stuck to our task well. In attack, Hulk and Neymar are very direct and put a lot of pressure on the opposition." As Silva says, PSG don't yet have a monopoly on the world's best attacking players. Brazil are ready to fire.
Brazil's Olympic football record
1952, Helsinki Quarter-finals
1956, Melbourne Did not qualify
1960, Rome Group stage
1964, Tokyo Group stage
1968, Mexico City Group stage
1972, Munich Group stage
1976, Montreal Fourth place
1980, Moscow Did not qualify
1984, Los Angeles Runners-up
1988, Seoul Runners-up
1992, Barcelona Did not qualify
1996, Atlanta Third place
2000, Sydney Quarter-finals
2004, Athens Did not qualify
2008, Beijing Third place
Medal total Two silvers (1984, 1988) and two bronzes (1996, 2008).
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