Thiago Alcantara: Winning four major trophies this season has been described as “impossible” by many, including Liverpool’s own players. But if they do, Thiago’s form in recent weeks will play a significant role.
The Spain midfielder has stepped up at the perfect time for the Reds, producing man-of-the-match performances almost weekly as Jurgen Klopp’s side chases Premier League and Champions League success to go along with FA Cup and League Cup triumphs.
Thiago was sensational in both legs against Villarreal as Liverpool advanced to another European final, assisted the Reds to victory in the FA Cup on Saturday, and has been consistently excellent in the Premier League as his side has maintained pressure on Manchester City at the top of the table.
Thiago has found his best form at Anfield after a slow start, helping to propel an already exceptional Liverpool side to the next level.
Thiago thrives in Liverpool’s evolution
When Liverpool signed Thiago from Bayern Munich in September 2020 for a relatively small fee of £20 million, it was widely regarded as a brilliant piece of business by the club.
This was a player who had won the Champions League, multiple league titles, and other trophies at both Barcelona and Bayern Munich, and who was widely regarded as one of the world’s best playmakers.
However, Thiago’s impact at Liverpool was hampered by contracting Covid-19 shortly after his arrival, as well as injuries.
When he was fit enough to play, some questioned whether he fit Liverpool’s style of play, with former Liverpool midfielder Dietmar Hamann saying in 2021 that he “made their midfield worse” by slowing things down too much.
At the time, it seemed like a valid observation, but the Reds’ midfield has evolved over time to be more in tune with Thiago’s style of play.
“Who is the one who is comfortable going through the middle with short passes and short moves when asked to do so? Thiago is his name “Guillem Balague, a Spanish football journalist, told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“With this new layer, Liverpool has improved, and Thiago is helping Liverpool improve because he is completely comfortable playing that type of football.”
Kristof Terreur, a Belgian football journalist, added: “He is ideal in games where your team drops deep; he is the man in charge.
“When he moved to Liverpool, I wondered what he would do there. In my opinion, he is the ideal Pep player, and Pep concurs. But Klopp infused some Pep into his team, so that’s evolution as well.
“He organizes everything and is a stunning player to watch.”
Incredible statistics and game intelligence
The current statistics for Thiago speak for themselves.
Thiago Alcantara has started 36 games for Liverpool since a 1-0 home defeat by Chelsea in March 2021, and the Reds have only lost once – a 1-0 home defeat by Inter Milan in the Champions League last 16-second leg last month, when they still advanced.
Thiago Alcantara was absent from six of Liverpool’s 11 Premier League losses this season.
Thiago completed more passes than the entire Everton team in their recent 2-0 Merseyside derby win, while he had a passing accuracy of 96 percent against Villarreal in the first leg of the Champions League.
Those passes were not just over five yards, either, with many coming in the final third and nine long-ball attempts hitting their mark.
“I think sometimes those stats – the 96 percent, 98 percent from players who give it five, ten yards – can be misleading,” former Liverpool striker Peter Crouch said during BT Sport’s coverage of the Villarreal game.
“He gets the ball and either hits it 30-40 yards or plays it through the lines. He’s not the type to drive sideways or backwards.”
Rio Ferdinand, a former Manchester United defender, believes Thiago’s football intelligence has shone through in recent games.
“It’s right there on the pitch for everyone to see,” he explained.
“It’s as if he’s practicing and testing things out on stage, and it always works.”
Liverpool has two Premier League games left this season, as well as the Champions League final.
Winning a quadruple in English football is unprecedented, and despite a draw against West Ham United, Manchester City remains favorite for the title.
Liverpool will almost certainly face two of the best midfielders of their generation Luka Modric and Toni Kroos in the Champions League final.
That duo dominated the match last year, but with Thiago in imperious form – he was a substitute in both games in 2021 – Liverpool has reason to believe they can dictate the tempo of the game and claim a fourth trophy of the season.