Liverpool IGNORED the red flags to sign Thiago - the antithesis of everything they did well in the transfer market

To say that Thiago Alcantara had quite the career would be an understatement. The midfield maestro won 11 league titles across his time with Barcelona and Bayern Munich. 

He won the treble during his time in Germany, claimed a Champions League during his time with Barca and racked up 46 appearances for Spain. 

While with Liverpool, he was pivotal to the club’s quadruple chase in 2021/22, but his time on Merseyside was littered with injuries and his impact across the four years he was with the Reds was limited

He left Anfield on a free transfer at the end of the 2023/24 campaign with his contract coming to an end. He’s since announced his retirement and the talk is that he will take up a coaching role with Hansi Flick at Barcelona

In the aftermath of his departure, conversation centred around what might’ve been had the playmaker been able to remain fit during his time with Liverpool. 

Though many queried his suitability for the English top flight during his debut campaign with the club, he was sensational during his second season on Merseyside. 

Thiago was supposed to be Liverpool 2.0

He ran the show against Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final and put on a passing clinic in the 4-0 win over Manchester United. Former Red Devil Gary Neville said the Spaniard “f***ing took the p***” out of Ralf Rangnick’s side when discussing the match on his podcast. 

The signing of Thiago was supposed to usher in a new era at Anfield. 

Jurgen Klopp Thiago

Jurgen Klopp Thiago

He was supposed to be the face of Liverpool 2.0 under Jurgen Klopp. And these performances were supposed to be the norm. This version of the team was supposed to be more technical than its predecessor. 

It was supposed to be more ball-dominant and more progressive from midfield rather than having to build out from the back via the full-backs. It would’ve allowed the Reds to do something different with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson. 

It also would’ve changed the dynamic of the front three with there being less reliance on Roberto Firmino to be the link between midfield and attack. Thiago and his ability on the ball would be instrumental to all of this. 

Red flags across the board

But while we only really got glimpses of what could’ve been, his arrival did usher in a new era and he was the face of Liverpool 2.0. However, this was tied to things off of the pitch rather than on it. 

The Spanish midfielder was the antithesis of everything the Reds had done in the transfer market under FSG. When he arrived in 2020, Thiago was 29. Injuries had plagued his career and during his final campaign with Bayern, he had missed a total of 10 games, appearing in a total of 1,772 Bundesliga minutes. It was the fifth time in seven seasons that he had failed to crack the 2,000-minute barrier for the German giants. 

Furthermore, according to reports, the new Liverpool No6 was going to be one of the highest earners at the club with multiple outlets claiming he was pocketing more than £200,000-per-week. 

Across the board, there were red flags. 

Thiago

Football - FA Premier League - Arsenal FC v Liverpool FC LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 4, 2024: Liverpool s Thiago AlcÃntara during the FA Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Liverpool FC at the Emirates Stadium. Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda LONDON Emirates Stadium GREATER LONDON ENGLAND PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxUK Copyright: xDavidxRawcliffex P2024-02-04-Arsenal_Liverpool-95

Injuries can’t be used as a predictor for what is to come but it would’ve been extremely naive to assume a player with Thiago’s record would miraculously stay injury-free as he headed into the twilight of his career.

Liverpool’s all-conquering squad had been built on availability. You weren’t going to get 30 Premier League games a season out of Thiago yet his wage was that of someone you would consider to be a key player who would be there in the big games. Think Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk. And at 29, he was going to give Liverpool his peak years and had zero resale value. 

Nothing about Thiago screamed 'smart business'

Nothing about it screamed smart business. Nothing about it made sense from a data side of things. To put it bluntly, he was a luxury player; a nice-to-have. 

And for other teams, this wouldn’t have been as much of an issue. He could’ve just been rolled out whenever he was fit. But Liverpool don’t operate like most teams. They have a strict wage budget and aren’t in a position to just write off that sort of outlay. 

It felt like a Jurgen Klopp signing rather than something Michael Edwards and the recruitment team would’ve pushed for. And over the past few years, we’ve heard how Klopp and his coaching staff have taken on more of a role in recruitment.

Football - 2023 / 2024 Premier League - Liverpool vs Manchester United, ManU - Anfield - Sunday 19th May 2024 Thiago Alcantara of Liverpool with owner John Henry and club CEO Billy Horgan after the game, at Anfield. PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxUK

In Pep Lijnders’ now infamous book, he talks about his part in the signing of Luis Diaz. Paul Joyce posted a story towards the end of last season revealing Klopp had pushed for Darwin Nunez. Klopp admitted to being a key part of why Wataru Endo is now a Liverpool player while there’s a strong belief that Cody Gakpo was a Lijnders suggestion rather than one suggested by the data team. 

Diaz didn’t track like Diogo Jota, Sadio Mane or Mohamed Salah in terms of underlying numbers across a large sample size or having scalable output. Nunez was, and I guess he still is, another with erratic output. Gakpo looked interesting but the Reds were already stacked at left wing before his arrival, so it was a bit of an odd one. Endo, as impactful as he was last season, felt like a short-term signing who is now taking up a key role within the squad when people are assessing what is needed this season. 

Liverpool’s business used to make a lot of sense. Over recent years, not so much. And it all seemed to start with the arrival of Thiago.

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