Thiago Alcantara has only played 45 minutes of first-team football for Liverpool since joining from Bayern Munich but the midfielder’s superb showing against Chelsea went some way to explaining why he is already being billed as one of the signings of the summer transfer window.
The 29-year-old put an end to months of speculation over his future last week by signing a long-term contract with Premier League champions Liverpool after turning down a lucrative new deal at the Allianz Arena.
He arrives on Merseyside on the back of an outstanding campaign with Bayern, in which the club lifted the Champions League trophy plus three pieces of domestic silverware.
Thiago was at the heart of Bayern’s success in Europe last season and was at his untouchable best as the side thumped Chelsea 7-1 on aggregate in the last-16 of the competition, with Mason Mount recently admitting he ‘couldn’t get near’ the Spain international.
Impressive individual displays versus Barcelona and Lyon followed but it was his outstanding performance in last month’s Champions League final which hammered home to Jurgen Klopp that this was a player he had to bring to Anfield.
According to The Athletic‘s David Ornstein, the Reds ‘needed no convincing’ when it came to Thiago’s ability. However he claims Klopp decided the Spaniard would be the ‘perfect signing’ while watching his showing against Paris Saint-Germain over a drink with his coaching staff at Liverpool’s pre-season training camp in Austria.
Excitement grew within Liverpool’s squad when Thiago’s arrival became a real possibility and there was a breakthrough in discussions last Monday before Liverpool’s club doctor, Jim Moxon, was sent to Germany to begin the medical process.
A fee of around €30million (£27.6m) was agreed between the two clubs, with Liverpool set to pay €5m every 12 months for each of the four years of Thiago’s contract, plus performance related add-ons.
Ornstein suggests Thiago and his wife had initially favoured a move to London but Liverpool’s recent success matched with their famous history and Klopp’s attacking style were enough to sway the ex-Barca man.
Thiago completed 75 passes after replacing Jordan Henderson at Stamford Bridge, more than any Chelsea player managed over the course of the entire match – and, remarkably, the most by anyone who has played a maximum of 45 minutes since Premier League passing data became available in 2003.
On Thiago’s debut, Klopp said: ‘It was top timing I would say, in a game like this.
‘He trained, he had eight days off, he played with Spain, he trained with Munich, he’s fit, that’s not the main problem.
‘But of course he’s not used to our things, that’s clear.
‘Bayern played a different system, they played slightly different that’s how it is, that’s how football is, you have to get used to your mates next to you.
‘And Hendo (Jordan Henderson) felt a little bit, we had to react and we decided to bring him on. Yeah, I liked it, I liked the game a lot.
‘Defensively it was tricky for him because we set it up differently but offensively with the ball, yeah, that’s him. He wants to pass the ball.’