When we cover interviews of players speaking to their home country press, we often point out that they talk about their entire careers, from their first club to their current situation.
These are normally interviews of ten to fifteen questions, which are normally enough to make a good summary of footballer’s paths.
But when interviewing Portuguese midfielder Tiago this week, outlet Tribuna Expresso took things to a whole new level, asking the player 188 questions.
Some of them were about his time at Chelsea, and there was obviously enough room for many details from those years, especially with the player revealing that he could’ve returned to the club in 2014.
It all started with Tribuna Expresso asking Tiago when the interest from the Blues appeared, since he was a Benfica player at the time.
“At Euro 2004. I remember receiving the call, we were still in the concentration of Alcochete”, says the former midfielder, who claims he didn’t hesitate. “No. It was time to leave.”
Tiago says the move wasn’t an easy one to pull off, since he still had a contract and Benfica’s board didn’t take his departure very well at the time.
“For two more years, if I’m not mistaken. I signed four or five and a half years. But here’s why my exit was complicated, because I really forced the exit.”
“I spoke to the president, to the coach, and told them that this was the moment, that there were things that hadn’t been accomplished in the previous year and that now they had to let me out.”
“It was complicated, it’s not easy for clubs. For Benfica it’s losing a player who’s a starter. It’s exchange for money, but they had to go and get another one that had the same performance and who earned as little as I did [laughs]. It wasn’t easy. I believe that what made me leave was the fact that, at that time, José Veiga was going to join Benfica, and I had problems with him when I chose to sign with Jorge Mendes.
Tiago says his adaptation to England was pretty difficult, but he still loved the football he’s found in the Premier League.
“It was complicated. More for my wife. Because she was already pregnant with our first child. She was 22 years old and it’s a complicated move to London. Not so much for me, because we, the players, go to training, have lunch at the training centre, if we want, and then come home.
“But in England at three in the afternoon, in winter, it’s already night. A person comes home, looks outside it’s night, it’s raining and where are we going? For our women, it’s complicated. They feel alone. There’s not much to do because the city is huge and we don’t know anything. We were very young when we left the country. The luck is that they were more Portuguese: Ricardo Carvalho, Paulo Ferreira, André Villas-Boas.”
“I still got six months from the old Chelsea training centre and then the new one. But even so, a very big difference to Benfica’s. For the better, of course, in terms of conditions. We had many, many fields to train, the opposite of what Benfica had at the time.”
“I loved English football. Faster, more physical football, where there weren’t so many stops, so many fouls, I loved it, I loved it, I loved it.”
It was at Chelsea that Tiago first met José Mourinho, and they soon won a Premier League title in his first season at the club.
“At that moment he was ahead of everyone else. It was a sensation to enter a game and be aware that we were going to win, that everything was going to go well, that we knew the opponent… and I hadn’t seen many games in England, when I entered a game, the work of Mourinho and André Villas Boas was so good, I had the feeling that I knew the player I was going to face so well that it gave me a lot of confidence.”
“It was an incredible year, Chelsea are champions again 50 years later. And there is the merit of Mourinho, who takes, if I’m not mistaken, ten new players, which isn’t easy for any coach. But even so, he manages to assemble a team and a group of fantastic men and we managed to be champions in the first year. Be champions and win the League Cup.”
Tiago also detailed his departure from the Blues the following summer.
“I do the whole pre-season, we still played in the Super Cup, which we won, but Chelsea are trying to sign Essien and they manage to sign him from Lyon. I still train with Essien at Chelsea, but there was Gérard Houllier, who was Lyon’s coach, calling me all the time. That he wanted me and I was going to be an important player, I would always play, which was something that at Chelsea didn’t happen.
“On top of that, with the arrival of Essien, a player that at that time cost many millions, I imagined Lampard, Essien and Makélélé, there was not much to move [laughs]. Obviously I would have my minutes, for the important player I had been the year before, but it’d be very difficult to be an undisputed starter in that team.
“And the option comes from Lyon, four-time French champion, a team that plays in the Champions League, where I can start, where the coach wants me so much that he called me all the time, every day … I make the decision to go.”
“Mourinho didn’t want it. He knows everything that is happening, because Jorge was his manager too, so he’s certainly aware of everything and comes to a point when he calls me and says that I’ll be an important player, that I’d be the first option for any of the three midfield positions, either of Makélélé, or of Essien, or of Lampard, so I don’t go. I said I was going to think, but by then I had the decision made.”
“I was feeling important [laughs]. It’s a player’s desire to feel important, to play. At that age I wanted to play, a player always thinks he deserves more than what he has and I can’t help saying that Lyon paid me more money than Chelsea. I thought everything was perfect and so I decided to go.”
Tiago moved to Lyon in 2005. He stayed at the club for two years, being sold to Juventus in 2007. In 2010, he was sent to Atlético Madrid on a loan deal, making the move permanent in the summer of 2011.
And he reveals that in 2014, he nearly returned to Chelsea.
“That was after being champions and playing the first Champions League final. I am about to return to England, it’s true.”
“It’s almost all sorted and it’s better not to say much more, but things don’t come up and Atlético and Simeone end up once again doing everything to make me come back and I come back.”
Asked if he was willing to return to Chelsea, Tiago said ‘yes‘. And he denies that it would be because of a better salary.
“The money there no longer made a difference. Especially because I don’t go to Chelsea and I have another club in Spain, which offered me a lot more money, and I decide to stay at Atlético.”
But he can’t reveal which club it is.
“[laughs] It doesn’t matter. They gave me better conditions but I decided that my story was at Atlético at that moment. But why do I want to go to Chelsea? Because Diego Costa and Filipe Luis, two friends, were going, and because Mourinho really convinced me to go.”
“Atlético hadn’t yet signed anyone for my position, but I didn’t want to go to the other club without knowing and being sure that Atlético wanted me, because I was still very attached to Atlético. When we got in touch with Atlético, the president asked Simeone and he just said: ‘Let him come tomorrow’. And then it was already decided.”