Thiago a shining light and continued key man for Liverpool
Even when Liverpool are producing one of their ugliest and most disappointing seasons in recent memory, Thiago still manages to be beautiful.
In a campaign littered with both team and individual deficiencies, the Spaniard continues to shine and do his best to alter the Reds’ fortunes.
There are some who may lazily look at Thiago and claim that he is part of the problem, just as Fabinho and Jordan Henderson now undoubtedly are, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
The 31-year-old may not be at the absolute peak of his powers anymore, which is wholly understandable given his age, but he is still a footballer who most clubs in Europe would be desperate to have in their ranks.
This season, Thiago has been largely excellent, barring the sporadic loss of possession and reckless tackle, even though Liverpool’s haplessness has tried to suggest otherwise.
He has managed to avoid the injuries that have so often struck him down throughout his career, starting 21 matches in all competitions and making 23 appearances overall.
While many have accused Liverpool’s entire midfield of being lifeless and leggy, Thiago has averaged three tackles per game in the Premier League – more than any of his Reds teammates, with Diogo Jota (2.5) the closest to him in the entire squad.
Similarly, only Ibrahima Konate (1.8) has managed more interceptions per match than the former Barcelona and Bayer Munich man’s tally of 1.4, showing that he is far more than the luxury player some bizarrely try to paint him as.
On the ball, Thiago has more key passes (1.1) than his fellow midfielders and has arguably been the one player capable of regularly breaking the lines with astute, risk-taking passes.
The thought of losing him to injury now is something that doesn’t bear thinking about, with his availability key to Liverpool having any chance of turning their season on its head.
So what about Thiago’s future?
When you look at Liverpool’s current squad, how many should be looked at as being in the Reds’ strongest possible starting lineup next season?
While Jurgen Klopp’s side’s current woes suggest that endless summer changes are required, it could be argued that as many as nine current stars would still make the best XI in 2023/24.
Alisson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Virgil van Dijk and Andy Robertson should continue to make up the first-choice back-line, presuming a few of those get out of their current funk and remember they are top-level footballers again.
Mohamed Salah, Luis Diaz and Darwin Nunez looks like the go-to front-three when everyone is fit, although Cody Gakpo, Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino may all have something to say about that.
And then there’s Thiago.
While the Spaniard will be 32 by the time next season starts, there is no reason at all why shouldn’t be considered a key starter for the foreseeable future.
Stick Thiago in a midfield that has two runners around him and he remains a world-class player – one of the few in Europe in his position capable of running a game so effortlessly with his ball retention and vision.
Throw Jude Bellingham and Matheus Nunes into the Liverpool team instead of Fabinho and Henderson, for example, and he would have so much more freedom to express himself and not be made to look worse next to two horribly past-their-best players.
Granted, fitness will always be a worry, with Thiago needing to be managed sensibly, but he should be viewed as a star man for the foreseeable future.
His minutes still need to be handled moving forward, with more signings helping Klopp do that, but he is one of the first names on the team sheet and that shouldn’t change for at least another season.