Few single-season spells at a club can have been as successful as Tiago’s was with Chelsea almost a decade ago. The midfielder spent his solitary year at Stamford Bridge during our glorious 2004/05 campaign when we lifted both the Premier League title and the League Cup. Ahead of our meeting with his current side, Atletico Madrid, two of his teammates from that season have been recalling their memories of the Portuguese international.
Tiago followed Jose Mourinho to west London from Portugal in the summer of 2004 but, unlike his compatriots Ricardo Carvalho and Paulo Ferreira, not from Porto. He had clearly impressed our new manager enough during his time at Porto’s great rivals Benfica to earn a move to the rising force in English football, Chelsea.
Tiago played his part as the Blues racked up a record Premier League points total, reached the semi-finals of the Champions League and lifted the Carling Cup. Deployed in the three-man midfield that proved so powerful that year he made 54 appearances in total, including 34 in a league campaign that seldom dipped below exceptional.
Petr Cech, who was also playing in his debut season at Stamford Bridge that year, told the official Chelsea website what he remembered of both Tiago the player and Tiago the man.
‘He was a nice guy,’ smiles Cech. ‘He was a team player and he was someone who everybody at the club liked. We were all sad when he left so it will be nice to see him again.
‘The best memory I have of playing with Tiago was that goal he scored at Old Trafford from 30 yards out which went straight into the top corner. That was an absolutely unbelievable goal and it came from nowhere really.’
That long-range strike in our penultimate league game of the season was Tiago’s last of four for the club. It was a fitting finale, too, for a man popular with players and supporters alike.
A move to Lyon followed before a spell at Juventus. His time in Italy proved mostly disappointing but he did feature against us in both legs of our Champions League round of 16 tie with Claudio Ranieri’s Juve in 2009.
He signed for Atletico in the summer of 2010 following a successful loan spell at the Vicente Calderon and has remained in the Spanish capital ever since. Frank Lampard, who often played alongside Tiago in a blue shirt, may well come face-to-face with his former team-mate tonight as the pair try to win the midfield battle for their respective sides.
‘I’ve been very impressed with him this year,’ said Lampard. ‘He’s a very good player and of course we know him well from here. He’s very complete – he’s got a bit of everything as a midfield player.
‘He’s a great lad as well. We had a very good time and a very successful time when he was here and no wonder, because he was a very good lad and a very good player.
‘We are very aware of what he can do and we’ll have to watch him amongst all the others.’