My Best Prospect: Thiago Maia

Club: Santos
Age: 19
Position: CDM/CM

•Born in Boa Vista, in the north of Brazil, Thiago Maia started his footballing development playing for local side Extremo Norte. However in 2010, aged 13, his footballing talent was becoming apparent and he moved to São Paulo to play for São Caetano’s youth categories. It wasn’t long before Brazil’s big clubs took notice, and just a year later in 2010 he signed for Santos, where he would begin to flourish at one of the worlds most prestigious footballing academies.

•The youngsters rapid rise and impressive performances through the youth teams at Peixe (Santos nickname) was beginning to enhance his reputation across the country. By the age of 16 he was called up to represent the Brazilian Under-17 side.

By this point, Maia was already training with the Santos first team, and on the 25th October 2014, aged just 17, the boy from Roraima made his Santos debut vs Chapecoense.

The start of 2015 saw Santos crowned Paulista champions, a campaign which Thiago continually made a case for his permanent inclusion in the team with a number of notable performances. And by June the that year having just turned 18, he had established himself as an undisputed starter, striking up an impressive midfield pairing with ex-Sevilla/Brazil international Renato. A player who’s presence and experience has been vital to Maia’s progression. Throughout 2015 Maia continued to shine for both club and country, playing 37 times for Santos and Brazil u20 on 8 occasions.

In 2016, Thiago Maia’s consistently wonderful displays saw his game reach new heights as he was included in the Campeonato Paulista Team of the Year, as Santos were once again crowned champions. By the summer of 2016 Maia’s reputation as one of the most impressive performers in Brazilian football was obvious and he was named in Brazil’s u23 Olympic squad, the side which finally brought home the Gold medal on home soil, after a penalty shootout victory in the final vs Germany.

Now still only 19, Maia has already amassed a total of 90 appearances for Santos, whilst being a key component in consecutive Campeonato Paulista wins, impressive Brazil league campaigns (5th and 2nd) as well as reaching the 2015 Copa do Brasil Final.

Capable of playing numerous roles to an excellent degree, Thiago Maia epitomises the phrase ‘complete midfielder’. Blesses with power, strength, impressive technique and an excellent understanding of the game, Maia’ is able to seemingly dominate midfield battles at will.

Often compared to Chilean Arturo Vidal, with an impressive passing range, Maia’ is equally capable of sitting in front of the back four, as a deep lying playmaker, as a more defensive ‘destroyer’, capable of breaking up play or perhaps his most suited role, as a box to box midfielder, a position which uses his exceptional stamina and physical attributes to greatest effect.

Most likely, the weakest aspect of Maia’s game is that he doesn’t contribute enough offensively, having scored just twice for Peixe over the course of 3 seasons.

During the 2016 Brasileirão, Thiago Maia completed 1688 passes (13th highest in the league) at an average of 54.5 passes per game (86.7 % success rate), the 5th most attempted tackles (131) & 8th most successful tackles (97) in the league.

With heavy speculation about a move to certain Premier League clubs, and interest from French Champions Paris Saint Germain, it’s clear that Thiago Maia’s future in football lies elsewhere, with the required skill set to one day, be seen as one of the world finest midfielders. However with 72% ownership of the player, Santos Football Club will be wanting to keep holds of its prize assets as they enter a crucial 2017 season.

For the player himself, the new season will represent an important 12 months of growth. First taste of the continents biggest stage, going face to face with South Americans elite during the 2017 Copa Libertadores. Whilst looking to further establish his reputation as one of the continents top midfielders, knocking on the door for his first Brazil national team call up. All readying himself for the inevitable continental switch.

Photo Credit: Lucas Figueiredo / MoWa Press

By: @CamMaher95