One of the long running transfer sagas of the truncated summer is set to come to an end. Various sources, including BBC Sport, report that a deal has been agreed with Bayern Munich for midfielder Thiago Alcantara. The fee is believed to be in the region of £27 million and the Spanish international will become the club’s second summer signing. Supporters were keen to see some incoming transfer business, as rival clubs were making eye-catching moves. It is important for clubs to build from a position of strength and this suggests the hierarchy at Anfield buy into this belief.
After winning the Premier League and Champions League in the last two seasons, Liverpool will be looking to maintain their level at the top of the sport. This signing points to their commitment to continue challenging for major honours. Thiago is a born winner, listing Barcelona and Bayern Munich as former clubs. During his career, he has won nine league titles and lifted the Champions League at both of his former clubs. Clarence Seedorf is the only player to lift the prestigious trophy with three clubs. Liverpool’s new signing has a great chance to match that feat. Albeit, he only played a minor role with Barcelona in 2010-11.
Some have raised their eyebrows at Liverpool targeting a 29-year-old, due to their previous approach to squad building. However, they have likely looked at Thiago as a player with four or five years left at the highest level, due to his playing style. For a bargain fee of £27 million, it is a no brainer for the club to bring the world class midfielder in, as he immediately improves the first team.
The midfield area now looks like one of strength for Liverpool. Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum have been the undoubted first choice starting three. There is good depth beneath them, with Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Curtis Jones, James Milner and Xherdan Shaqiri competing for minutes.
Thiago should come straight into the starting eleven, once he has adapted to English football. He has established himself as one of the best midfielders in Europe over the last five years. Pep Guardiola famously told the Bayern Munich board they had to sign the Spanish midfielder upon taking the manager’s job.
There is good reason for that, as the 29-year-old is tailor made to thrive at the very highest level. He is perfect for a pressing system and there are few better progressive passers in the world. Thiago is excellent at scanning the pitch to pick out the best pass before he has even received the ball. He operates seconds ahead of other players and that will be the main reason he has been brought to Anfield. If there was one thing the first eleven was missing, it was an elite passer. In addition to his passing quality, the La Masia graduate can beat an opposition defender and manoeuvre the ball into space, making him difficult to press.
Last season, Thiago averaged 10.5 progressive passes and 9.4 passes into the final third per ninety minutes. Although he didn’t register a single assist in the Bundesliga, he manages to get the ball to the attackers quicker. This means that the likes of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane should have more time and space when they receive the ball in the final third. That will be a huge benefit, especially as teams give Liverpool more respect and set up deeper against them.
His main role will be in transition, but Thiago is an effective player out of possession. Last season, he averaged 14.8 pressures per ninety minutes, with a success rate of 34.6%. Jurgen Klopp will want others in the team to press more than the 29-year-old, but the new signing will be able to contribute. Further to his pressing, the Spanish international averaged 3.9 tackles and interceptions per ninety minutes showing a tenacity required to do well in Liverpool’s midfield.
This transfer comes just weeks after Thiago played a starring role in the Champions League final. There is no doubt that this is a great move by Liverpool and it is one shows their current stature in European football. He may be leaving the European champions, but he is joining the one team that many believe are better than Bayern Munich. This will improve the Reds and nobody will know that better than Pep Guardiola.