Player Profile: Tiago PDF Print E-mail

TiagoFull name: Tiago Cardoso Mendes

Position: Midfielder

Date of Birth: 2 May 1981

Birthplace: Viana do Castelo, Portugal


A transfer from England’s Premiership to France’s Ligue 1 is not often looked upon as much of a career progression, but it proved the perfect move to get Tiago Mendes noticed as one of Europe’s finest midfielders.

Born in 1981 in the northern resort town of Viana do Castelo, Tiago started out as a striker in junior football before being converted to a defensive midfielder at local club Braga, where he turned professional in his late teens.

A move to Benfica followed in December 2001. It was in his first season at the Estadio da Luz that he enjoyed his best-ever goalscoring return, hitting 13 in 31 league games, and in November 2002 he made his debut for the national side in a friendly against Scotland.

Cup success

He won just one trophy during his time in Lisbon, albeit in dramatic fashion as Benfica came from behind to win the 2004 Portuguese Cup in extra-time against soon-to-be European champions Porto.

Tiago was a non-playing member of Portugal’s Euro 2004 squad, but had already impressed the losing manager from the cup final – one Jose Mourinho – enough for him to take the midfielder with him to his new post at Stamford Bridge for a fee of over £8 million.

Despite the perception of Tiago as a fringe player at Chelsea, he appeared in 51 games in his solitary season at Stamford Bridge as the Blues became champions of England for the first time in half a century – a triumph celebrated with a 3-1 win at the home of title rivals Manchester United, where Tiago scored a spectacular long-range effort – a goal made even more memorable by the sight of Mourinho’s stunned face on the touchline as it whistled in. Chelsea also lifted the League Cup and reached the Champions League semi-final.

Mourinho tribute

Tiago’s willingness to work selflessly for the team had made him hugely popular in the Chelsea dressing room. So when the Portuguese admitted he wanted to accept an offer from French champions Lyon in order to start more matches, it was with a heavy heart that Mourinho agreed to let him go. “He is a wonderful boy and we will miss him,” said the coach.

The wrench of moving on did not affect Tiago’s performances for his new club, however. He settled immediately and revelled as a more central part of the side than he had been at Stamford Bridge. His impact at the Gerland was such that Lyon never really missed Mickael Essien, who made the opposite move to Tiago in that summer of 2005.

After two highly successful seasons in France, Juventus beat off competition from AC Milan to sign the Portugal midfielder. A poor first season seemed to put his career in Serie A in jeapordy, but Tiago showed commendable mental toughness to overcome at times vicious criticism to enjoy a far better 2008/09, making himself a mainstay in the starting XI.  

International breakthrough

Moving to France had the desired effect in international terms, with Tiago’s form forcing him into the previously closed shop of Portugal’s midfield. He played five matches in Germany during World Cup 2006, and scored his first goal for the national team in March 2007, in a man-of-the-match display away to Serbia.

by Andy Brassell (13/06/2009)


* League appearances only

** Up to May 2009

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