If your response to Liverpool’s alleged move for Thiago is to believe it when you see it, then you’re probably approaching things the right way.
There’s a lot about it that smells fishy.
For one, the deal would require a pretty drastic break from strategy for the Reds recruitment team. Of all 20 first team signings made since Jurgen Klopp’s arrival in October 2015, only four have been over the age of 27 – three of those were backup goalkeepers and the other was short-term defensive cover Ragnar Klavan.
The average age of outfield signings in the same period is just under 26, with resale value down the line a central concern with virtually every major addition. Thiago turned 29 in April, meaning financial profit can likely be written off straight off the bat.
Then there’s his wages. Reports back in February claimed that he wanted to be Bayern Munich’s top earner, representing a pretty hefty hike from the estimated £200,000 per week he earns just now. Given that Mohamed Salah is Liverpool’s top earner on around £200,000 at present – and he had to win the Golden Boot in his debut season to be offered those terms – the maths just don’t add up.
However, and there’s a big, bold however, there does seem to be more to it than your average passing transfer rumour. While you can never discount the possibility that the entire situation has been fabricated by a nefarious agent looking to fleece a few extra quid out of wherever he ends up next – be that Manchester United, PSG or still at Bayern – it’s Liverpool who seem to have caught fire.
Spanish outlet SPORT can hardly be taken at face value with their claims that the Reds are ‘very close’ to securing a deal, but the story has been given the time of day by Christian Falk – BILD’s main man – on more than one occasion.
It might seem doubtful that Liverpool will deem a deal financially sensible, even at the low end of the €35-50m price range, but stranger things have happened. If the Reds are to spring a surprise in the weeks ahead, then there are far worse options for whom to break their carefully crafted mould.
Thiago, after all, is a completely different option to any other midfielder on Liverpool’s books. Naby Keita is the most comparable in his creativity, while Georginio Wijnaldum can boast a similar ability to retain possession and wiggle out of tight spaces, but Thiago has it all in one package. He’s one of the best deep-lying playmakers in the world, and while the margins to improve the current Liverpool team are fine – they’ve dropped just ten league points from 96 available this term – he is one of the only realistic signings who could do that.
His arrival would almost certainly come at the expense of one other player, and that perhaps casts more doubt over his potential signing than any other factor. Wijnaldum, Fabinho and Jordan Henderson are settled starters, and with Adam Lallana leaving, the likes of Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Curtis Jones are all champing at the bit to step up and take on more first-team responsibility.
It’s a hypothetical, almost dreamland scenario; but if the opportunity was there to send Keita out on loan to a non-competitor to rediscover his best form, while bringing in a player who would elevate the midfield to a new level in the short-term, that’s the type of ruthless decision-making that could be the difference in next season’s battle to stay on top of the game.
In addition to the winning mentality and pedigree that has been cultivated in the engine room of Bayern team who just claimed their eighth successive Bundesliga – something Liverpool could undoubtedly utilise in the fledgling years of their potential legacy – Thiago’s versatility brings with it enormous advantages.
In a fully-fit starting XI, it’s easy to envisage Thiago on the left of a midfield three, providing the creative spark alongside Fabinho and either Henderson or Wijnaldum, but over the years he has shown the intelligence to play further forward or even directly in front of the defence. He’s equally capable of dropping into Fabinho’s role, breaking up play and spraying out passes from between the lines, as he is of stepping into the No.10 in a 4-2-3-1 – something Klopp has experimented with in the past.
There are other concerns, of course. Thiago’s injury record, and the fact he has been off the boil by his own standards this term, mean he isn’t the asset he was even 12 months ago. But while that raises another question mark, with his contract up in 2021, it could serve to give the Reds the high ground in negotiations over a deal that would be completely unviable under other circumstances.
There is a very, very small door left open for this to happen. It seems far more likely, at face value, that a move to PSG or Manchester United – both teams more willing to spend and more in need of improvements – will come to fruition, and there shouldn’t be too much disappointment at Anfield should either come to pass.
In the right circumstances, however, should the stars align themselves and the dominoes fall as planned, then this could – could – be another very good bit of Liverpool business.