In the summer of 2013, the smartest and innovative brains in world football, Pep Guardiola said in a press conference, “Thiago or nothing!” He was just appointed as the manager of the German Giants – Bayern Munich and immediately made it clear that Bayern would need the services of the Spanish midfielder Thiago Alcantara and the young lad is ideal to fit his plans.

Thiago was born in San Pietro Vernotico, Italy when his father Mazinho – player for the Brazilian team during that memorable tournament in the United States in 1994 – was playing for nearby U.S. Lecce. He started at the lower levels of Flamengo in Brazil, and, at the age of five, moved to Spain with his father, and started playing with the Galician team Ureca in Nigrán.

In 2001, he played with Kelme CF when his father played for Elche CF. He returned to Flamengo aged 10 and, in 2005, once again moved back to Spain, signing with FC Barcelona, where his cousin Marielo Dos Santos was also playing.

In 2009, at the age of 18, Thiago made his debut for the first team when he came on as a substitute for Eiður Guðjohnsen in the 74th minute at RCD Mallorca for his only appearance of the season.

Barcelona, having already won the league, lost 1–2.

In 2010, after coming on as a substitute for Yaya Touré in the 76th minute, Thiago scored his first goal for Barcelona in a 4–0 home win against Racing de Santander.

He scored his third goal against Real Sociedad, although Barcelona lost 2–1. He ended the 2010–11 season with 17 games, three goals, and three assists, and was an unused substitute as Barcelona won the 2011 UEFA Champions League Final against Manchester United at Wembley Stadium.

Thiago started the 2011–12 season with the first leg of the Spanish Supercopa match against the rivals Real Madrid, being substituted for Xavi after 58 minutes, and was an unused substitute as they defeated FC Porto for the 2011 UEFA Super Cup.

He then scored in Barcelona’s first La Liga match of the season in a 5–0 home win against Villarreal CF.

Thiago started as Barcelona won 4–0 in the Club World Cup Final at International Stadium Yokohama.

Thiago also netted Barcelona’s fifth in a 7–0 win against Rayo Vallecano on 29 April from a close-range header.

In Barcelona, Thiago’s development was all about learning the game from the master Pep Guardiola, who spotted his talents and could guess, the young lad is desperately in need of nurturing and thus when he joined Bayern Munich, he signed Thiago in the 2013-14 season, which changed the fortunes of the Spanish player – who could have been a Brazilian player due to the nationality of his father but decided to don the Spanish shirt because the competition back in Brazil is tougher.

Back in Germany, the talent of Thiago started to transform into deeds under the supervision of Pep, and under Hansi Flick, he has reached that level, which is the dream of a footballer – one of the best players in world football.

In Bayern Munich, Thiago marshals the center of the park. Covering the game in the midfield as a central midfielder is always a very demanding task and one needs to possess a high level of endurance and top-class mobility, which Thiago has.

While there are some limitations in his game due to his size, especially his height (he’s 172 cm tall), he showcases a fair amount of strength in ground duels and isn’t afraid of challenging bigger opponents.

In Bayern, Thiago played as a number 8 for a brief period and then played as a number 10, and for the past few years, he became a master of the art as a number 6 – either alone or in combination with others.

Under Hansi Flick, he was deployed as a deeplying playmaker in a 4-2-3-1, usually alongside the more dynamic and defensive Joshua Kimmich. Despite the roles being markedly different, Thiago’s tactical intelligence and vast skill set has enabled him to thrive as a number six.

Thiago’s greatest strength is his ability to maintain possession under pressure. When dropping deep to collect the ball from the center-backs, he is often met with an intense opposition press. Due to the positions he takes up on the pitch, losing the ball in these areas would leave Bayern hopelessly exposed defensively – but Thiago advances with the ball defying the high-press and dictates the game from the deep.

His first touch also allows him to control the ball in tight areas or create space from an opposition player – Thiago excels through turns, feints, and shimmies to outweigh the marker and progresses without breaking enough sweat.

The creative role of Thiago opens the play for Bayern and the players in the forward exploit that fully – one could witness how brutal Bayern Munich had been in the Champions League.

Using his vision and passing range, he spread the play and found the likes of Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman with direct, vertical passes. More commonly, though, he looked to find teammates who find space in between the lines with penetrative forward passes.

Despite his primary creative role, Thiago is also a competent defender. He wins 70% of his ground duels and makes 2.6 interceptions and 3 tackles per 90. Despite his 5’9” frame, he wins an impressive 2.8 aerial duels per 90. He is relatively strong and quick and is particularly good at initiating sudden bursts of acceleration that can be an asset both with and without the ball. Thiago is generally lauded as a creative player, but his defensive contributions are vital to his viability as a number six.

In the English Premier League, his such qualities would be highly beneficial.

Liverpool have signed midfielder Thiago Alcantara from Bayern Munich on a four-year deal for £20m.

The fee for the Spain international, 29, could eventually rise to £25m with bonuses.

The midfield of Liverpool has always been about maintaining compactness and accelerates with the high-octane nature of the League. The likes of Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, Gini Wjinadum or James Milner have not been all about creative play in the center of the park, but retaining possession and then push it forward to the center or on the flanks, where Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold would do the rest for Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah.

So, how could Thiago fit in Klopp’s midfield?

According to Melissa Reddy, senior correspondent of The Independent, “Part of the job when you are at the top is to stay there and one of the ways to do that is to make sure you’re evolving, reinventing yourself in certain respects while staying true to the fundamentals that got you to the pinnacle in the first place – and Thiago would do that. He is the anthesis of everything they have at the moment, which I think is the entire point.”

“He’s so progressive on the ball, pressure-resistant and against deep defences especially, he would open them, with his incredible range of passing with both feet. While it’s true that Liverpool largely funnel all their play through their full-backs, who are the creative heartbeat of the side, they know that clubs are trying to deny them that avenue. They’re working really hard to put pressure on the full-backs to funnel all their play inside.”

“Liverpool’s midfield is incredibly industrious, tactically astute and their job really is to cover the areas when the full-backs go and are left vacant to make sure they’re offering protection, but if you can have somebody in the midfield as well who can function in that creative capacity, it makes sense to do it.”

“Thiago is an incredible thinker of the game as well when he talks about the art of passing. He was schooled at two clubs [Barcelona and Bayern] where the pressure and expectation is so much, so moving to a club where that’s also the case wouldn’t really hamper him too much.”

“But in essence, when you look at Liverpool’s midfield, they’re already struggling to give everyone a fair crack at appearances and it is their most well-stocked area. For Jurgen, the biggest thing is squad harmony. He thinks a big reason they are where they are is, yes the evolution of the team and being able to win in different ways, but that’s possible because of the squad harmony, the way the group gets along and he’s very conscious of keeping that, adding to the group but not destabilizing that harmony.”

“Interestingly with Thiago, Georginio Wijnaldum is in the exact same position in terms of having a year left on his contract to run and Barcelona under Ronald Koeman want Wijanldum. There has been no secret of that.”

Reddy has explained beautifully about the role of Thiago and at the center of the park, he would take the burden of creative play and reduce the load from the fling wing-backs.

Players like Milner and Henderson who could shift from a flanking midfield role to a more defensive one during the course of a game, relieving Thiago of some of his defensive duties.


Without an iota of doubt, Thiago is the best signing of this summer and Liverpool have signed an absolute gem of a midfielder, who would only deliver the goods for Klopp and make them stronger even though some think, this is a move of stepping backward, but keeping in mind the form and skillsets Thiago have, some of the critics need to recheck their thoughts.

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