On the day Bayern Munich officially announced the signing of Leroy Sane, Thiago Alcantara was linked with a transfer to Liverpool.
Just how much truth lies in the rumour remains to be seen but from the viewpoint of someone who watches more English football than German, I heartily encourage such a transaction.
Not that Liverpool need much improvement of course, the newly-crowned champions’ 20-point cushion at the top of the table is evidence of almost excessive superiority.
My only reason for wanting the Spanish midfielder to make Anfield his home is because I want to watch as much of him as I can.
After all, he’s the man who makes Manuel Neuer run out from his goal to celebrate a pass (wait for it)…
Thiago’s brand of football is an aesthetic.
Supremely composed and a believer in sport’s artistic qualities, the 29-year-old’s technique is hand-crafted; he is an artisan footballer.
His style is what makes him such a good player, but it’s also what has held him back from becoming the best midfielder in the world.
It’s not that he’s lacking substance, far from it, but his output does not reflect his talent.
Prime example: he is yet to provide an assist in the Bundesliga this season.
It is not necessarily his job to supply the final ball – he often plays the pass before the assist – but some may be alarmed by this stat, considering he’s a creative midfielder for a team who dominant their domestic league.
Capable of playing as a 6, 8 or 10, he has settled into the role of a deep-lying playmaker for Bayern, leaving the stat-padding to Serge Gnabry, Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski.
Like his compatriots Andres Inietsa and David Silva, it is futile to gauge Thiago’s worth via stats.
You have to watch him play, you have to see him with the ball at his feet, the sphere of leather attracted to his in-step by a mutated form of gravity.
He excels in moments TV directors overlook when considering what is worthy of a replay: first touches, feints, spins, dummies.
Watching him, you sometimes lament the fact matches are determined by goals rather than style points.
And it’s his unwavering commitment to objectively cool football that sets him aside from the likes of Kevin De Bruyne.
Something about the Belgian’s distinct brand of brilliance, the relentless effectiveness, feels too try-hard for Thiago.
Most would place De Bruyne ahead of the Spaniard in a hypothetical ranking of global midfielders and yet I get the sense Thiago would not trade places if it meant sacrificing his brand.
I wouldn’t go as far as saying the ex-Barcelona man has wasted his talent, but I believe there is a certain degree of untapped talent.
Would Jurgen Klopp tolerate such a luxury?
As a collective, Liverpool’s first-choice midfield of Fabinho, Gini Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson is the antithesis of Thiago.
They may not be as blessed with the same natural comfort with ball at feet but they have squeezed their ability for every last drop.
Specifically, Wijnaldum and Henderson have improved under Klopp’s tutelage immensely, becoming midfielders key to European and domestic glory — something that seemed beyond them a few years ago.
When you watch Liverpool’s midfield, the thundering effort is noticeable.
When you watch Thiago, he looks effortless.
Perhaps it’s this contrast that Klopp seeks.
Naby Keita was brought in to offer something different in the middle of park and has shown glimpses of his creativity and technique.
Though the Guinea international plays with an intensity befitting Liverpool, unlike Thiago, who often appears languid.
He is not lazy by any means, he runs his kilometres like everyone else and isn’t shy of a yellow card either, it’s just his recognisably composed manner that sets him apart and seems to give him more time on the ball than anyone else — prime Mesut Ozil possessed something similar.
Given Liverpool’s recent success, all criticism is minor but one thing you could say is that their midfield is one-dimensional at times.
Thiago would add an extra dimension but the question is: would he be Klopp-ified?
And by that I mean, would he gain the intensity that seems to infect all Liverpool players?
If such a transformation were to happen, I foresee two possible two outcomes.
- In an attempt to add vehemence to his game, Thiago loses what makes him special
- He retains his oozing class and doubles his tangible effectiveness
The second outcome would put him in the conversation of world’s best midfielder.
If Thiago stays true to his current guise – either through resistance to Klopp-ification or because the German does not want any adjustments – a similar 50:50 presents itself.
Either his relaxed grace complements the team’s break-neck approach, or he gets left behind.
Selfishly, I’m fine with all four possibilities as his presence in any game, regardless of form, results in moments of micro-satisfaction.
Enough words, just watch.
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