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HomeSportsFootballIgor Thiago as Ivan Toney's Replacement: Bees Did It Again

Igor Thiago as Ivan Toney’s Replacement: Bees Did It Again

Brentford is known for being one of the smartest football clubs worldwide. Another transfer only adds to their impressive track record.

The London club has reportedly signed Igor Thiago from Club Brugge for a club-record fee of £30 million. Thiago is set to join the team on July 1, 2024, as soon as the transfer window opens. This move comes as a surprise as it seems that the club has already found a replacement for their most prolific striker, Ivan Toney, before he has even departed. It’s impressive to see a club that thinks about the bigger picture!

Now, who is Igor Thiago, and why have Brentford felt comfortable splashing a club-record fee for the Brazilian? Here are all the details-

Who is Igor Thiago?

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Igor Thiago is a 22-year-old centre-forward who came through the academy of Brazilian club Cruzeiro. Thiago is someone who wasn’t really prolific in the youth circuits, or even in the first few years of his senior career, but like a lion who tastes blood, he got the feel for scoring later on and couldn’t stop then.

That “later on” came at Bulgarian side Ludogorets. Thiago arrived in Bulgaria with a scoring record of just nine goals in 60 games, hardly a shining return for a natural centre-forward.

However, things clicked for him in Bulgaria. Ludogorets were aware they were signing a diamond in the rough so they started him off in their second team. Three goals in four games prompted a promotion quicker than anyone would have expected.

Thiago never looked back, winning back-to-back league titles and cups with the team as he spearheaded their scoring efforts. 21 goals in 55 games was not a world-class return, but it showed signs of a player finally finding his feet in senior football.

This mini-breakout prompted his team to cash in with a club-record sale when Club Brugge spent £7.5 million on him. That fee would be made to look like a bargain by Thiago, who, by now, couldn’t stop scoring.

This season, his first at Brugge, he is already at 26 goals in 38 appearances across all competitions. This return made sure that Brugge will be earning a 4x return on their investment in just one year, as Brentford spent £30 million on him.

Now comes his biggest challenge. Not only will he be expected to lead the line for a Premier League club, he will do so by stepping into the boots of a player who is effectively “Mr Brentford” in the Premier League- Ivan Toney.

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Which brings us to…

Ivan Toney and Igor Thiago – A replacement made in heaven

He is strong in the air, a lethal finisher, who runs himself to the ground while doing defensive work, a target man who likes to link up the play and is never afraid of getting physical.

Such is Brentford’s scouting system that the line above can be used to describe both Ivan Toney and Igor Thiago to a tee!

Of course, you can’t account for how a player will acclimatise to a new league and teammates but on paper and in terms of playing style, Thiago is effectively what you would get if you were to clone Ivan Toney in a laboratory.

Brentford’s game is based on Toney holding the ball up, bringing their pacy wide wingers into the game, and then running into the box at the right moment to finish chances. Holding up the ball is one deficiency in Thiago’s game but it’s worth remembering he is three years younger than his English counterpart.

Also, Toney’s footballing education was done in the English lower leagues, which forced him to develop his physical game. With the pace at which Thiago’s game has improved since his Cruzeiro days, it is a natural bet to say that the hold-up part of his game should come along nicely too.

As for the similarities, it’s an endless list which was broadly mentioned in the first line of this section. Thiago is about three inches taller than Toney and has the knack of jumping at the right time to time his headers perfectly. He is able to position himself incredibly well to contest for aerial duels and intelligent pushes help him create space from his opponent in the air.

Thiago’s 16 goals in the league come from an xG of 16.2, showing a striker who knows where to be in the box and doesn’t waste chances when they fall to him. It proves that his goalscoring at Brugge is not a flash in the pan and he has completely merited the return he has.

Most importantly for Brentford, Thiago’s link-up play is extremely well-developed for someone whose strength doesn’t lie in holding up the ball.

He has 6.53 touches in the penalty area/90 and receives 7.34 progressive passes/90, pointing to the playing style of someone who is involved in the game at all times and not just as a poacher.

Much like Ivan Toney, Thiago is also as close to a certainty as one can be from the penalty spot. Both players have a success rate of more than 90% from the spot throughout their careers, just adding another similar wrinkle to their playing profiles.

Igor Thiago at Brentford: What should one expect?

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So impressive has Toney been in the Premier League that it is often forgotten that Brentford bought him based on his ridiculous goalscoring displays for Peterborough in League One. Since then, he has taken every promotion in his stride and kept improving his game.

Expect a similar trajectory for Igor Thiago. Toney was not prolific until he was. Then he couldn’t stop scoring. Thiago is similar. Toney moved up the decisions and his game just kept improving, just like Thiago, who moved from Brazil to Bulgaria to Belgium- progressively tougher leagues but provided better returns.

For Thiago’s first season at Brentford, expect some growing pains as his teammates are so used to playing with Ivan Toney. However, those pains should subside fairly soon considering the similarities in the playing style of the two. Once the patterns stick and Thiago improves his hold-up play, expect the machine to start humming like Toney was never even there.

Then, there will be just the last similarity with Toney to check on the list. A big-money move to an even bigger club for Thiago that will leave Brentford looking like geniuses once again!

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