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A key cog in AC Milan's 2010/11 title-winning side, Brazilian international Thiago Silva has not always had it so good in European football.
The central defender first moved to this continent, and to FC Porto, aged 19 from EC Juventude but struggled to find his feet. "I was very young when I left Brazil," the now 26-year-old explained. "My arrival at Porto wasn't easy and I had some difficulties. I spoke the same language but I felt very lonely. Two months later I caught tuberculosis yet at the time no doctor at Porto knew for sure what was wrong with me. I trained and played with the B team.
"I hardly trained with the main squad at all, let alone play with them – all due to the tuberculosis. The illness slowed me down so much in 2005, it was a year when I didn't play football, a sad year for me. When I face a difficult situation nowadays, I always look back at that experience and remember what I've been through. I get stronger each time I think of it."
A short stint at FC Dinamo Moskva followed before a three-year return to Brazil with Fluminense FC, which proved a great success. Thiago Silva lifted the Brazilian Cup and claimed a bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics before receiving a call that would prove a turning point in his career. Former Brazil midfielder Leonardo, then Milan's technical director, was at the other end of the phone.
"He asked if I would like to come to Milan," said the sturdy centre-back. "I said, 'Of course I would like that!'. They did everything to make it happen. The director called me, everyone called me to find out if I really wanted to go to Milan, and my decision was made quickly."
A defensive mainstay for the Rossoneri for the last two seasons, Thiago Silva described it as "a pleasure to work" with previous boss Carlo Ancelotti before his departure for Chelsea FC. Now at the helm is Massimiliano Allegri, the coach who last term steered Milan to their first Italian championship in seven years. "I am very grateful for this opportunity," concluded the player, who is certain to be a pivot of the squad defending their domestic crown and eyeing UEFA Champions League glory in 2011/12.
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