Ian Doyle examines what needs to happen next for Thiago Alcantara at Liverpool in the latest Blood Red.
It’s a yearning that many Liverpool fans haven’t been able to satisfy since the summer.
Fans have been devouring every connection, rumour, and whisper linking the Reds with a midfield transfer since Gini Wijnaldum declared he would be leaving at the end of the season.
Jurgen Klopp’s engine room resources have been limited this season due to injury and unavailability, a factor that led to Liverpool’s 25-game unbeaten run coming to an end at West Ham United last weekend.
However, the latest round of rumours is expected to cause division among Reds fans.
The suggestion Barcelona are pondering a bid for Thiago Alcantara perhaps shouldn’t be taken with as sizeable a pinch of salt as most other tittle-tattle.
After all, it’s built on the firm foundation of Barca, which is currently led by Xavi, who used to play with the Spain international at Camp Nou.
Even Thiago’s most ardent supporters would concede that his Liverpool career has so far been disappointing.
We are all aware of the reasons for this. Thiago Alcantara was only getting up to speed in the first team when things started to unravel significantly at the start of the calendar year, thanks to a spell of coronavirus and a severe knee injury.
However, he was a vital member of the team that finished third last season, before further injuries and a lack of a full pre-season ensured the current campaign has been relatively stop-start.
Thiago’s dismal performance off the bench at the London Stadium last Sunday, in which he was too often off the mark with his passing radar and unable to move the ball swiftly enough, was indicative of a player lacking match sharpness.
The upcoming international break will at least provide an opportunity for much-needed fitness work for the 30-year-old, who Spain manager Luis Enrique has disregarded following very little game time at Euro 2020.
However, the apparent interest from Barcelona – and expect that narrative to continue – highlights why this season will be critical in determining how long Thiago stays at Anfield.
He has to catch up on certain things. Thiago has already missed ten games this season after missing 20 last season due to injury and illness.
That’s more than he’s scored in any season since returning to Bayern Munich in 2015 following a year off due to knee ligament surgery.
The rigorous calendar of Liverpool assures that not only will midfield opportunities emerge but that Thiago will be called upon to step up.
Indeed, the dead rubbers against Porto and AC Milan in the Champions League may prove crucial in the Spaniard’s quest for top fitness.
His abilities are undeniable. So is his midfield connection with Fabinho, who has yet to lose in 11 games in which they have started together in the engine room.
However, Thiago’s appearances this season have been limited to the Premier League match against Leeds United and the home game against Crystal Palace, the latter of which Thiago sustained his calf injury. Both games were 3-0 victories.
Only twice have Thiago, Fabinho, and captain Jordan Henderson started a game as a three-person midfield. There is still a lot of room for the Spaniard to fulfil his full potential in a Liverpool shirt.
“Coming to a new club in the most difficult period of all our lives, he settled well despite that,” said Klopp when asked about Thiago earlier this season.
“He’s an outstanding character and excellent personality and a world-class player. How much more is there to come? Much more.”
Both Thiago and Klopp will hope that is now the case. After all, Liverpool is going to need him once the action resumes again next weekend.