“He comes from Portugal, he hates the Arsenal” – and now it looks as if he could be returning to Stamford Bridge, albeit this time from Spain, but presumably with his feelings towards our North London neighbours suitably unmodified.
Yes, Chelsea’s former midfielder Tiago appears to be on his way back on a free transfer from Atletico Madrid. It’s not the transfer deal that’s going to set this summer alight, to be honest, and it’s doubtful whether it’ll raise the pulse even of Blues fans – but it’s still a sound, sensible move that supporters should welcome.
In his last sojourn at Stamford Bridge, Tiago was a decent midfielder to have in the squad, a strong tackler and decent passer who could be relied upon to perform well in any role asked of him. He also had a bit of a shot on him, as anyone who saw him score against Manchester United will remember. He was an integral part of Jose Mourinho’s first championship-winning side, but the arrival of Michael Essien effectively lost him his first-team place and he was sold to Lyon – a move Mourinho later admitted was “a big mistake”.
At Lyon he won two Ligue 1 titles before moving to Juventus, where he spent a disappointing (and injury-hit) two and a half years. He was loaned out to Atletico Madrid, and after impressing and winning a first-team spot there, moved there permanently.
For Atletico, he has proved a thoroughly reliable central midfielder and has helped them to a Europa League trophy, a Spanish league title and an appearance in the final of the Champions League. He may not be the Atletico player who grabs the most headlines, but he has provided the bedrock on which the success of the team has been based. However, at the age of 33, he is probably past his best, and Atletico have allowed his contract to run down, making him available on a free.
So what can he offer Chelsea this time around? He’s a thoroughly reliable squad player who will provide excellent back-up to the first-choice midfielders. He brings with him a huge wealth of experience, especially of top European football, and is tactically in tune with what Mourinho demands of his midfield. And of course, he’s free.
There is, too, a suggestion that he is coming back to Stamford Bridge with a view to moving towards coaching, integrating himself into Mourinho’s back-up team and taking a coaching role at Chelsea in the future. It’s an interesting notion, particularly as he is a player Mourinho clearly respects for his intelligence, application and tactical awareness.
Furthermore, if he can help the incoming Atletico Madrid contingent – Thibaut Courtois, Diego Costa and possibly Filipe Luis – to integrate into life at Chelsea, then he will be well worth his salary.
The only problem Chelsea fans should have with this is the difficulty of rewriting his terrace song. “Tiago – he comes from Portugal, he still hates Arsenal”? That might just work.