London, September 23: Thiago Silva is proud to have joined Chelsea at the age of 36 after his career was threatened by tuberculosis.
While on loan at Dynamo Moscow from Porto in 2005, Silva experienced chest pains and was hospitalised for five months after being diagnosed with the illness.
The centre-back opted against an operation on one of his lungs that would likely have brought a premature end to his time in football and returned to boyhood club Fluminense the following year.
He has since gone on to win the Serie A with Milan, 23 trophies at Paris Saint-Germain - with whom he lost the Champions League final to Bayern Munich last month - and the Copa America with Brazil.
Asked about the serious illness he suffered a decade-and-a-half ago, Silva said: "It was one of the worst experiences in my life because you have a dream as a child to be playing as a professional footballer and when I got TB, it seemed the dream would be over. But, thank God, I had the strength to overcome it and get well.
"It's difficult to talk about it because it brings back these memories, these moments. I remember my last day in the hospital, the doctor told me that I hadn't been cured, that I needed an operation on my lung and that my football career would be over.
"But, thank God, thanks to the qualified people and the specialists, little by little I got better. Little by little, with dedication I managed to return to playing football.
"Definitely it's something that not many people have gone through in their lives and a lot of people didn't recover from a similar illness, so I think about it a lot, these moments and what I've been through and I thankfully had the strength to overcome it.
"I'm very grateful to my family, to my wife, who was very supportive. At the time she was my girlfriend and she was 17, and she helped give me the strength to get over it so I was able to then chase my dreams. Now I can say today that I'm a champion, not just in football but also in life."
With health at the forefront of many people's minds amid the coronavirus pandemic, Silva said: "I'd like to send a message to the young people to tell them to really make the most of their lives.
"If someone is playing football, to really dedicate themselves to playing football. Some people have football as a hobby, but football is a job and life is short and goes by quite quickly.
"In 2005 my life could have been over, but thank God I overcame that illness and today I can now say that I am victorious, both personally and professionally. It's a wonderful experience to now be 36 and a player in the Premier League and to put on a Chelsea shirt at 36. It's immense responsibility and a great source of pride."
Silva was signed to provide experience to Frank Lampard's youthful squad and it is not weighing on his mind that he is on a one-year contract at a club that does not typically hang on to older players.
The veteran defender - who could make his debut against Barnsley in the EFL Cup on Wednesday - hopes to prove he is still capable of being an asset at the highest level and earning a place in the Brazil squad for the 2022 World Cup.
"I think when you get to a certain age, the tendency is that you sign this type of contract. I have no doubt that I will give everything and do my best and contribute," Silva added.
"I prepare and work really hard in everything I do. I love football, I love preparation, and it's not a case of preparing on a Friday for the Saturday, this type of preparation goes way back, so I'm totally relaxed about the contract.
"Whether Chelsea will want to renew it or not, I don't know. If Chelsea feel I haven't met expectations or contributed, we'll sit down and talk about that. I'm not worried at all and I will prepare to do my best possible and really help to contribute to this new team and new project.
"I've accepted this new challenge. It's going to be really good for me. Everyone knows my ambition is to play in the World Cup in two years, when I'll be 38 years old."