Liverpool fans had been talking about nothing else all summer. The club’s rumoured interest in Bayern Munich’s departing midfielder Thiago Alcântara had caused a stir among fans of the Anfield club who were eager to see the Spaniard’s silky skills lighting up the Premier League. As the off-season dragged on, more and more Liverpool fans began to lose hope, but all the waiting has now finally paid off, with it being reported that Liverpool have agreed a deal to sign Thiago.
It’s a signing that seems to buck the trend of Jürgen Klopp’s Anfield acquisitions being young and having room for improvement. At 29, Thiago is among the older players Klopp has signed, and his injury record is a cause for concern among some of the transfer’s doubters. But it’s clear that Liverpool’s German manager has long been an admirer of the Spaniard, having showered him with praise in various press conferences over the years.
Anyone who watched Bayern Munich’s Champions League success last season will know that Liverpool are getting a genuinely world class midfielder, at a cut price of just £20m up front, with a potential £5m in add-ons. It’s the kind of marquee signing that is guaranteed to make Liverpool a more formidable prospect to their opponents, and one of the favourites to win the title on betting exchange sites.
But now that the transfer has finally been confirmed, let’s ponder how Thiago will fit into this Liverpool team, and the qualities he will bring to the midfield.
For many Liverpool fans, the midfield has been an area that has needed improvement, but off the back of a 99-point Premier League winning season, it’s difficult to be critical of Liverpool’s midfield three. The tried-and-tested triumvirate of Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum has brought the Reds plenty of success over the last couple of seasons, and the introduction of Thiago will be a change to the team’s familiar line-up.
The obvious move is for Thiago to take the place of Wijnaldum, and indeed, there have been suggestions that Wijnaldum could leave the club this summer, with Barcelona rumoured to be interested in the Dutchman’s services. He has just a year left on his Anfield contract, and with negotiations seemingly coming to a halt, it could prove that Liverpool offload the 29-year-old before losing him on a free next summer.
This would allow Thiago to play a slightly more advanced midfield role than if he took the place of Fabinho. The Spaniard’s qualities lie in his ability to pick passes that no-one else can see, unlocking defences with a delicate mix of flair and firepower. His ability to dictate play and provide those killer through-balls will be a valuable asset to Liverpool, when they come up against sides who are difficult to break down. We’ve seen Klopp’s side struggle in the past against teams that merely stick 10 men behind the ball and defend for their lives. With Thiago, Liverpool will have a player who is capable of pulling a metaphorical rabbit from a hat, providing that bit of quality needed to change a game.
The Spain international will also help to form a more creative conduit between the midfield and Liverpool’s fearsome front three. At times, it has felt like all the responsibility to deliver goals and assists has fallen on Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, but Thiago’s presence behind them will allow those forwards to be more creative in their run-making, confident in the knowledge that there is world class midfielder behind them who has the ability to pick them out.
The news of Thiago’s signing seemed to flick a switch among Liverpool fans. There had been a general air of doom and gloom within the fanbase after the team’s less-than-convincing 4-3 defeat of Leeds United on opening day, but now Liverpool’s supporters have been buoyed by the arrival of one of world football’s superstars. And they have every reason to celebrate.