Porto (Portugal) (AFP)
The two were signed at the start of this season and have continued to play an important role in helping their clubs advance to Saturday’s Champions League final in Porto.
AFP Sport examines Ruben Dias’ impact on Manchester City and the importance of fellow center-back Thiago Silva to Chelsea.
– Dias: transforming signature of the city –
What could turn out to be Manchester City’s most glorious season started off in an unsuspecting way with their first home game of the campaign ending in a 5-2 beating from Leicester City. City’s quick response was Dias signing for a club record 62million ($ 87million).
“If that doesn’t work I think maybe it’s the end of Project Pep,” said former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher on the day Dias arrived in Manchester.
Instead, the now 24-year-old Dias has not only finally filled the void left by Vincent Kompany’s departure in 2019, but he’s also had a transformational impact on those around him.
England internationals John Stones and Kyle Walker suddenly look like the £ 50million players City bought in Guardiola’s debut.
The Portuguese belt international has had no problem adjusting to the physicality of English football, but it was his leadership in his first year in a new country that caught the eye.
“The opponents will always score, because they are good, but we are not giving them easy chances – this is the big improvement from Ruben Dias,” Guardiola said in March.
“He’s a central defender who leads the line and leads the team. His performance and decision making is good, but he also helps other players make good decisions – that’s how you become an amazing defender. “
Thanks to Dias, City have been the Champions League defense this season, conceding four goals in 12 games.
Likewise, a 15-game winning streak that saw City move from mid-table to a top Premier League lead between December and March has been built on the foundation of 10 clean sheets.
Last week, Dias became the first defenseman in 32 years to win the English Football Writers’ Association Player of the Year award.
“I think receiving this award is the prime example of how our team works, the way we build our game,” he said.
– Silva’s close relationship with Tuchel –
Silva, 36, is the polar opposite of his career compared to Dias, but it is his wealth of experience and his relationship with coach Thomas Tuchel that make him so valuable for a Chelsea side whose success in 2021 was mainly built around an exceptional defense.
# photo1Last year, the Brazilian dominated Paris Saint-Germain, losing 1-0 to Bayern Munich in the Lisbon final.
It was his last game for the club as Silva’s contract was not extended, much to Tuchel’s disappointment.
“The decision doesn’t matter. He will remain my player. He is in my heart and it was amazing to live that with him, ”said Tuchel nine months ago.
Silva quickly joined Chelsea on a first one-year contract, but reunited with Tuchel in January when the German replaced Frank Lampard in the Stamford Bridge dugout.
It remains to be seen if Silva will still be around next season, and he has actually played more games for Chelsea under Lampard than under Tuchel.
Injuries have ruled him out of most of the new manager’s first games, including the round of 16 against Atletico Madrid.
Rather, a lively Silva spent the second leg of that draw assembling Chelsea’s defense from the stands, and his experience helped bring out the best of Antonio Ruediger and Andreas Christensen by his side, with Tuchel overseeing 18 leaves. white in his first 24 games.
Tuchel also knows that with so many young players in his squad, Silva’s experience is invaluable.
“I’m pretty sure for ‘Thia’ it’s a big advantage to come back to the final, to have that experience again and to learn from the previous year,” Tuchel said of Silva, who returns to the city that was his first stop in Europe in 2004 when he played for the Porto reserves.
© 2021 AFP