Chorus of praise for world-class Thiago

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In the last minute of Tuesday's breathtaking match at the Allianz Arena, the stadium rose as one to acclaim a true hero of the night. Even the home players applauded when the fourth official displayed the substitution board bearing the number 6: Thiago trotted from the pitch, tired and drained, but radiating satisfaction and happiness. "I think we were close to perfection," said the Spaniard after the 6-1 victory over FC Porto. "It's a great day for the team."

More than that, it was a great day for the player himself. Thiago was sidelined for months with three ligament injuries in his right knee and finally returned from a 371-day lay-off just under three weeks ago. "It's my new life as a footballer," he himself said -- and it is going so well that it is hard to believe he was ever away. Thiago is a naturally gifted player, but his assurance and confidence against FC Porto was remarkable. The 22-year-old seems not to know the meaning of the word 'pressure'.

"We love it, we're born for matches like this and we're proud to play in them," Thiago declared. The Spaniard is only 174 cm / 5 ft 8 in tall, but he refused to accept that his headed goal was anything out of the ordinary, despite the attentions of a considerably bigger Porto defender. "You can put it in with your rear end, you can do it with a scissors kick -- it's a goal and that's what matters."

Pivotal influence

The chorus of praise for Thiago came not only from the fans but also the top personalities at the club. "The lad's world-class," declared Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, "he's unbelievably talented. We're delighted he's back for the last third of the season. He can decide games on his own." Coach Pep Guardiola praised his protégée's "huge, huge quality, but especially that he's never afraid, regardless of who we play. He's a fighter."

Manuel Neuer had nothing but good things to say about his team-mate. "He's our hub and pivot. He ups the pace, secures possession and boasts outstanding technique." Everyone hopes Thiago's fitness now holds up in the weeks and months ahead, as the player himself feels he is not yet back to 100 percent. "But it's getting better and better," he announced -- and that's good news with the biggest games of the campaign looming on the horizon.

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