Lille are undergoing a revolution in Ligue Un under the stewardship of Marcelo Bielsa who is using Brazilians as his tactical base board
Marcelo Bielsa has recently been appointed as Lille’s new coach. El Loco, who is known for causing controversy wherever he goes, has already decided to drop several key members from the squad, including the Ligue 1 side’s captain Rio Mavumba. Meanwhile, the Argentinian tactician has been quick to lay his hands on a couple of Brazilian signings, including Thiago Maia.
São Paulo duo Thiago Mendes and Luiz Araújo were quick to join Lille following Bielsa’s appointment, but the list of new Brazilian arrivals did not stop there, as Santos duo Caju and Thiago Maia’s turn came right after. However, the former has failed his medical due to groin problems as well as having muscular issues in his legs, so is likely to return to his Paulista club.
While all Bielsa’s Brazilian signings have the potential to turn out to be bargains in a couple of year’s time, Thiago Maia is arguably the most important one. The 20-year-old had been one of the most consistent players in the Brazilian league for around 18 months. Despite his young age, Thiago has always shown great maturity in his game-play, with the way he reads the opponent’s mind, intercepts the ball, pulls off a clean tackle to recover possession without getting involved in a lot of controversy with the referee, but most notably his intelligent decision-making. As a matter of fact, Maia was one of the best passers in Brazil, and has a very versatile skill-set in his passing-range, from short ones, to long ones, to through balls.
At Santos, Thiago often operated as a defensive midfielder alongside the team’s captain, former Sevilla ace Renato. In the club’s 4-2-3-1, the duo formed one of the league’s best and most effective partnerships, guiding Santos to the Campeonato Paulista in 2016, and ending as second in the Brasileirão in that same season. This year, both players were essential in reaching the Libertadores Round of 16, where Santos beat Atlético Paranaense 3-2 away, in the first leg, and are strong favorites to go all the way to the quarter-finals of South America’s most prestigious competition in club football.
Marcelo Bielsa is very picky when it comes to midfielders, because they are the essence of his system and allow him to implement his philosophy which relies on dominating possession and playing build-up football. The coaching idol of Pep Guardiola putting his faith in the abilities of young Thiago is no doubt a great source of recognition.
With a growing Brazilian contingent to help his adaption, the 2016 Olympic gold medalist will have the chance to experience life in Europe under ideal circumstances. It is worth nothing that Thiago has always made it clear that his dream is to play for Paris Saint Germain, with his close friend Marquinhos. Shining in France would no doubt make it easier for him to attract PSG’s attention, and who knows, possibly earning him a dream move to the French-capital side.
The Ligue 1 is becoming a more and more attractive destination for Brazilians in the past few years, and Neymar’s move to French giants PSG could perhaps be the turning point that makes national team manager Tite give France-based players, such as Thiago Maia and Fabinho, the value they deserve. This could be the golden opportunity they have been waiting for, in World Cup season.