Out of the 23-man shortlist for the FIFA Ballon d’Or 2013, only one plays behind midfield. The honour falls to Thiago Silva, winner of the FIFA Confederations Cup with Brazil. Ahead of the announcement of the three best players of the year, the 29-year-old talked to FIFA.com and revealed he had always dreamt of being a forward and only became a centre-back out of necessity.
The man nicknamed 'The Monster', a moniker he picked up at Fluminense, told of his pride at being nominated among the best in the world and acknowledged it was a tough job competing for the Ballon d’Or against attackers such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, his team-mate at Paris Saint-Germain. Nevertheless, Thiago believes he could be an even stronger candidate for the trophy in 2014, if he achieves another dream: winning the FIFA World Cup™.
FIFA.com: How do you feel being among the 23 Ballon d’Or finalists?
Thiago Silva: Above all else it fills me with a sense of pride. It’s an honour to be in this group. Just being one of the 23 is immensely satisfying. I know it’s difficult to win it, but nothing is impossible.
Forwards always get more exposure. Does the fact you are on the shortlist as a centre-back make it even more special?
Very much so. If you look at the list there is only one centre-back. It makes me even prouder to be amid all those star names. Competing against forwards is complicated. People tend to overlook other positions. Having said that, the forwards have worked hard to be there.
Does it bother you?
It’s natural. When I dreamt of being a footballer I dreamt of being a forward, but I wasn’t talented enough. I started off as a right-winger, but my coaches pushed me further and further back. So much so that I ended up in defence, because I wasn’t good with my hands and there was nowhere else to go! So they put me there and that’s when I found my position.
Which of the 11 positions is the most difficult to select to form a team?
In attack. There are great forwards around. It’s certainly tough leaving out a Cavani or a Suarez. Neymar is a magnificent player, then you have Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Ibra. What can you do?
The last defender to win the Ballon d’Or was Fabio Cannavaro in the year Italy won the World Cup. Do you think the same thing can happen to you in 2014?
If we become world champions it may open the door to this award, although I think it would be difficult. Every ten years a centre-back may win it once. You never know what tomorrow brings, but I realise it’s very tough. What I’m thinking about is playing well to provide my team with a solid foundation to win games. What I’m thinking about is winning the World Cup. If this puts me among the best again, I’ll be very happy.
A Seleção does not have a traditional midfield orchestrator. Does this make it even more vital to have defenders like you, who can distribute the ball well and even set attacks in motion?
This is important for any team. Centre-backs with good technique can move the ball forward, even when under pressure. I’m talking about myself and also the players around me. David Luiz, Marcelo besides him, or Maxwell. On my side I have Daniel [Alves] or Maicon. In goal, we have one of the best in the world, Julio Cesar. I’m surrounded by great players. Then looking ahead, you have Luiz Gustavo and Paulinho. This gives any player confidence to bring the ball out of defence. It’s no use having good technique if you haven’t got players around you who can help in this task.
So if you don’t trust a fullback or a holding midfielder you clear the ball upfield?
Centre-backs usually get criticised for clearing the ball long, but it’s easier doing this than risking a pass. If you lose the ball at the back, it’s almost a goal. Most centre-backs don’t risk this kind of game, depending on the holding midfielder in front.