Thiago Could Have Lessons For Liverpool’s Jones

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For an incalculable number of reasons, the signing of Thiago Alcantara is a huge boost for Liverpool.

On the pitch, off the pitch, for dressing room morale and from a marketability viewpoint, the 29-year-old Spaniard could — and should — prove an extremely valuable acquisition for the Reds.

But perhaps the biggest impact that the former FC Bayern midfield linchpin could have is on the young players in the English Champions’ squad, especially the likes of Curtis Jones.

Steven Gerrard, the last midfielder of a world-class calibre to emerge from Liverpool’s academy, credits Gary McAllister as having a guiding influence on his career during the time the pair — who are now both part of the same coaching ticket at Rangers — spent together at Anfield.

McAllister signed for the Reds on a free transfer as a 36-year-old in 2000, a timeframe which coincided with Gerrard bursting onto the scene, and Gerrard — who would go on to cement himself as a bonafide club legend — admits that he owes a lot to the former Scotland captain.

“I knew there was a player there that I could learn off both on and off the pitch,” Gerrard told the official club website in 2015.

“He took a shine to me and helped me a lot to progress as a footballer on the pitch but also how to be humble and be a decent person off it. So I owe Gary Mac an awful lot.”

In Thiago, a player who is indisputably world-class, Jones, 19, could have the perfect role model to learn from.

The academy product showed his wears in all their glory with a man of the match display in Liverpool’s thumping 7-2 defeat of Lincoln City in the League Cup last Thursday.

With two goals, both of which came from long-range strikes — although one was aided by a deflection — from the left-hand side of the pitch, Jones not only showed his aptness at shooting but also his confidence.

There is a certain air about the young Scouser, an unflappable confidence which manifests itself in his propensity to shoot and to try things that may not come up.

Often, young players — with the fear of making errors informing and directing their decision making — will play with a conservatism that does not sync with the energy and imagination of youth, but this not seem an issue with Jones.

With an innate confidence, the requisite physical attributes — he stands 6’1″, with nimble feet and has a burst of pace — and a refined technical ability, the Reds’ number 17 has all the tools to become a regular in the team.

Speaking to the club website after the victory over Lincoln, Jurgen Klopp acknowledged Jones’ clear talents but also highlighted the areas in which the former age-grade captain needs to improve.

“Doing the right thing in the right moments helps as well. That’s what he had to learn in the last few years because he was absolutely exceptional and maybe the top player of each age group he was in,” the German said.

“[That] means he had to learn to play together with other players – he made massive steps in that department. He had brilliant role models in this squad.

“And now, the door is open. I don’t want to make the performance smaller than it was because it’s absolutely exceptional. The way he scores, the way he contributes to the game, that’s all really exceptional.

“But Curtis knows himself there’s a lot of space for improvement, like being in a game really over 90 minutes, really being involved – not only on the pitch and these kinds of things.

“There’s space for improvement. It’s good.”

Luckily for Liverpool, Thiago — so intelligent in his positioning and tactical awareness — excels at the parts of the game that Jones needs to brush up on.

Whether the young Scouser takes the cue from the Reds’ new signing remains to be seen, but if he does — like Gerrard mirroring McAllister — Jones could go on to establish himself as a Liverpool linchpin.

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