Thiago Alcantara, a midfielder for Liverpool, returned to action over the weekend and could play a key role for Jurgen Klopp next season
One of the many positives for Liverpool during a stirring second-half comeback on Sunday was in danger of going unnoticed.
However, the return of Thiago Alcantara could be crucial as Jurgen Klopp’s side attempts to salvage some reward from a difficult campaign.
Thiago was forced to watch from the sidelines as Liverpool crashed out of the Champions League in disappointing fashion against Real Madrid last month, effectively ending their hopes of qualifying for the competition next season.
The Spaniard had missed 10 games due to a hip injury after taking over as the Reds’ senior midfielder in the New Year after Jordan Henderson and Fabinho were both dropped following poor performances.
Thiago had gone to the well one too many times after starting 10 consecutive games following the World Cup, his longest such run since joining Liverpool in September 2020.
Now, he returns to a Liverpool engine room that has sorely missed the calming influence and ability to dictate play that have been Thiago’s characteristics throughout a career that has seen him shine for Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and the Spain national team.
Not that the midfielder isn’t envious of the qualities of some of his more energetic teammates, including one whose game is perhaps the polar opposite of the elegant Spaniard’s.
“You just react when you’re into the game, when you’re living the game,” Thiago says. “You can’t overthink it, but running isn’t my thing.” My specialty is forcing the team to play slowly or quickly when necessary.
“It’s about trying to score 40 goals per season for the best players in the world, which I don’t have. I tell Darwin (Nunez) that I’ve never had the feeling in my life of shooting the ball 30 meters in front of me and declaring that I’ll win this race to get it. That certainly makes me jealous at times. But, as we all know, we always want what we don’t have.”
While neither player nor team has had a stellar season, Liverpool have a higher win percentage with Thiago, winning half of the 22 games in which he has started compared to 38% in the 21 he hasn’t, with Sunday being one of only three occasions the Spaniard has emerged from the bench.
In an interview with Walk On magazine, Thiago explained one of his signature moves, the no-look pass.
“It’s a way for me to fool the other guys (opponents) so I can get the ball to my teammates in a better position,” he explains. “You must examine the ball to determine whether it is close enough to make a proper pass.” You must also look ahead, and if you see a body moving (in your peripheral vision), you can say, “Okay, I will do this pass,” because you’ve seen him (teammate), and you know exactly where he is. Then, for the no-look pass, you must avoid putting your body or your eyes where you want the ball to go.