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How Chelsea star Thiago Silva almost died from tuberculosis aged 21, and his wife saved his career


THIAGO Silva is one of the best defenders of his generation, but over a decade ago the Brazilian was weeks away from death after catching tuberculosis.

The Chelsea centre back, 36, was diagnosed with the bacterial infection while at Dynamo Moscow in 2005.

Chelsea centre back Thiago Silva became one of the best defenders of his generation after tuberculosis scare
Chelsea centre back Thiago Silva became one of the best defenders of his generation after tuberculosis scare

In 2005 while playing for Dynamo Moscow Silva was diagnosed with tuberculosis
In 2005 while playing for Dynamo Moscow Silva was diagnosed with tuberculosis
Dynamo Moscow

At just 21 years old, Silva was hospitalised for six months while Russian doctors treated him for the condition he contracted six months before the illness was detected.

The tuberculosis was so advanced, docs even considered removing part of his lungs to ensure his survival.

But his mother, Angela, and wife, Isabelle stepped in and advised against surgery that would’ve put pay to Silva’s football dreams before it had even started.

“That would have ended my career, I needed guardian angels to take me away,” Silva told AP.


Silva was signed by Dynamo from Porto in January, 2005 for a fee of around £3.5m.

Despite not playing a single game for the Portuguese giants, other than a smattering of matches in the reserves in the second division, Dynamo took a punt on the unknown entity.

The Russian club’s President, Alexei Fedorychev had big plans for Dynamo that year, bringing in seven players from Portugal that January.

He even appointed experienced Brazilian manager Ivo Wortmann to ensure the language barrier wasn’t a problem for any new arrivals and his team could challenge for the Premier League.

But club doctors were surprised that Silva was getting tired so quickly.

Silva goes toe-to-toe with Robert Lewandowski in the recent Champions League final
Silva goes toe-to-toe with Robert Lewandowski in the Champions League final
Manu Fernandez

They also were shocked that most of their new recruits were bought without proper medical checks.

Silva became very ill, suffering with symptoms including a high temperature, coughing fits and severe sweating.

Clearly it wasn’t a case of the flu, he was sent to hospital where doctors conducted a series of tests to determine what was wrong.


They were stunned to learn he was suffering from tuberculosis, and had been for six months prior to their discovery.

Simply put, doctors told him he was two weeks away from death and was extremely lucky the disease was caught when it was.

“In 2005 I was sent out on loan to Dynamo Moscow, but the city was horrible, I was cold and got ill,” he told Gazzetta dello Sport magazine Sport Week back in 2011.

“I was in hospital for six months. I was 10kg overweight and, despite everyone else in the hospital being so skinny and not wanting to eat, I was always hungry.

Doctors said Silva was two weeks away from death if he remained untreated
Doctors said Silva was two weeks away from death if he remained untreated
AFP or licensors

“My mother said I didn’t look ill, but I couldn’t move.

“The doctors would tell me to get up and go for a walk, but I couldn’t do it. This disease is also contagious, so I was put in isolation, only able to play computer games and go on the internet.

“Every now and then a doctor would come in and give me an injection, three or four times a day, plus 10-15 pills.

“I eventually found out that I’d had tuberculosis for six months. The doctors said if another two weeks had passed, I might not have been able to recover.

“I almost died. This is why, whenever I play, I think back to those moments in Russia.”


During his treatment, medical staff advised the central defender he needed to have a part of his right lung cut out to survive the ordeal.

Effectively, that would’ve meant he would have to quit football.

Thiago Silva
Thiago Silva’s wife Isabelle went against doctors’ advice of surgery to remove some of his lung
Instagram @thiagosilva_33

Thiago Silva
Brazilian star Thiago Silva’s mum Angela convinced her son to carry on playing
Bruno Henrique/ Divulgação

“I told them no one would open my husband up and end his dream,” wife Isabelle told AP.

“I am not a doctor, but no one believed he should go through surgery.

“To see him wearing the Brazil shirt is a victory for us all, especially those that know him from those days.”

During that dark time, Silva thought about retiring, despite being given a clean bill of health. It was the second time in his life he considered quitting the game.

“I had thought of quitting football altogether,” he told Gazzetta dello Sport magazine Sport Week.

“There was another occasion when I went to Flamengo for a trial and after two sessions they said I could go, as I was no better than any of the players they already had.

“I told my mother I didn’t want to play football anymore, as nobody wanted me.

“However, she said in that case I’d have to go work for my brother, so I immediately changed my mind and looked for another club!”


Silva’s adventure/nightmare in Russia ended in 2006 when he returned back to his homeland with Fluminense.

Ivo Wortmann
Ivo Wortmann gave Thiago Silva a second chance at Fluminense

Thiago Silva
At Fluminense, Thiago Silva managed to rebuild his career
AFP - Getty

Thiago Silva
Thiago Silva earned a move to AC Milan in 2009 and has since become one of the world’s best defenders
Getty - Contributor

His redemption came from a familiar face too. Wortmann, a man responsible for bringing him to Dynamo in the first place, had moved back to Brazil too.

Believing in Silva’s talent, he told Fluminense he’d be their coach if they bought his protege too.

They did, and the rest, as they say, is history. Silva showed his promise, earning moves to AC Milan, PSG and now Chelsea.

And he could finish his first year in London as a Champions League winner.



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