By Leanne Prescott Twitter – @_lfcleanne
How do you evolve a Champions League and Premier League winning side?
It has been the question on every Liverpool fans lips for some time now.
After seven seasons at Bayern Munich, Liverpool now have their man.
On the face of it, he would appear to break the archetypical FSG model, which has focused primarily on developing players in their early to mid 20s with potential rather than ready-made, proven talent.
Phillipe Coutinho, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane had all shown glimpses of their quality before arriving but developed astronomically on Merseyside, moving from players with high ceilings to some of the most revered talents in world football.
In Thiago, Liverpool have a player whose profile is fundamentally different, but one that undoubtedly helps in the club’s quest to stay on top.
The deal itself, which involves paying a £20million fee in increments over the course of a 4-year contract is further proof of the incredible development of the club’s transfer policy under Michael Edwards.
When was the last time Liverpool signed a genuinely world-class player from a European heavyweight? It is arguably the club’s most high-profile signing of the Premier League era.
A Champions League winner with Barcelona and Bayern, the Spaniard offers an undoubted injection of quality to Jurgen Klopp’s midfield; he isn’t just good at what he does, he is one of the very best.
He is good enough to be an exception to the rule.
At 29, Thiago is one of Europe’s most accomplished midfielders; a player whose sizeable reputation is matched by his widespread skillset. His speed of thought, spatial awareness and positional intelligence showcase his immaculate footballing brain, which has been central to Bayern’s revival and the club’s sixth Champions League triumph in August.
While the likes of Georginio Wijnaldum, Jordan Henderson and Fabinho have been integral to the club’s development from nearly men to serial winners, Thiago will provide another dimension to Liverpool’s play, something that is increasingly needed as the opposition set up to try and shackle Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson this season.
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Both full backs are the team’s chief creators, with Pep Ljinders eluding to such back in July: ‘Trent and Robbo literally give us wings. But the rotten thing is, teams are already trying to stop that. It is up to us to remain unpredictable.’
Indeed, Alexander-Arnold’s absence in the Community Shield served as a reminder of how Liverpool may need to find new avenues to defend their crown, and if the opposition is increasingly focusing on stifling the flanks, some brains to complement the brawn in midfield could be the latest evolution to Klopp’s side.
While it didn’t hinder Liverpool’s pursuit of the Premier League title last season, it is a rarity to use the central areas to threaten the opposition directly. Doing so would add an extra string to Klopp’s bow.
Averaging 82.6 completed passes per 90 minutes in the Bundesliga last season alongside a pass completion rate in excess of 90 percent and an affinity for defensive responsibilities, Thiago is the model candidate for Klopp’s midfield, seemingly unfazed under pressure as one of the most press-resistant midfielders in the world.
A man at home in the engine room, seemingly born to work in tight spaces with the spark to make possession count.
It is of little wonder why Hansi Flick wanted to keep hold of him.
A timely metronome and a cool head within a symphony of chaos, he can dictate the tempo of play from midfield, spraying incisive balls in between the lines, driving at the opposition and beating a man.
With Wijnaldum now expected to stay put this summer too, Thiago’s arrival will only add to the competition in a well-stocked midfield department, while enabling Fabinho to chip in as a fourth senior centre-back should it be required.
At the beginning of the season, Jurgen Klopp pledged his side ‘will not defend the title, we will attack the next one’ and the signing of Thiago is a statement that promises just that.
He is one of few players in the world who can improve this already generational Liverpool side.
By Leanne Prescott Twitter – @_lfcleanne