Liverpool fans have been told they have signed an “absolute superstar” in Thiago Alcantara.
So just how good is the 2019-20 Treble winner, how does he compare to Liverpool’s current midfield options and will anybody have to leave Anfield now?
What kind of player is Thiago? How good is he?
Put quite simply, Thiago is one of the world’s best midfielders – and one of the most successful.
He has won a major league title nine times in his 10 seasons (since he started played enough games in a season to qualify for a medal) – two with Barcelona and seven in a row with Bayern. He has also won the Champions League twice, once with each team.
“There is a lot of reason to get excited,” German football journalist Raphael Honigstein toldBBC Radio 5 Live’s Euro Leagues podcast.
“Liverpool fans should consider themselves very lucky because they are picking up an absolute superstar who could probably play in any team in the world.
“Thiago is in the form of his life. The way he played in the Champions League, combining that skill and elegance with winning balls back. He makes it look effortless.”
Thiago also has huge international pedigree. Born in Italy, he plays for Spain, the country where he was raised, even though his father Mazinho (a 1994 World Cup winner) and brother Rafinha – both Brazil internationals – tried to persuade him to play for their country instead.
Perhaps the biggest compliment is that when his former Barca boss Pep Guardiola took over at Bayern Munich, he said: “I spoke to the club and told them about my concept and told them why I want Thiago. He is the only player that I want. It will be him or no-one.”
How does he compare to Liverpool’s midfielders? How will he fit in?
Thiago is a central midfielder – although he can play any role in that area. He is capable of playing as a defensive midfielder, as a box-to-box player or as a number 10 if needed.
Last season he only managed three goals, and made no assists, in the Bundesliga. He only played twice in the nine league games after the restart because of a groin injury – although he did feature in their German Cup and Champions League final wins.
He completed more passes in the Bundesliga than any Liverpool player managed in the Premier League last season despite playing significantly fewer minutes than Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum.
His passing accuracy of 90.5% was only slightly edged by Wijnaldum (90.8%).
He had more recoveries (195) and made more interceptions (45) than any of Liverpool’s midfielders, although Henderson and Fabinho put in more tackles.
Only Henderson created more chances (27 to 20), while Wijnaldum (15) and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (10) had more shots on target than Thiago’s nine.
Thiago led all Liverpool’s midfielders in dribbles attempted (85) and completed (71).
Honigstein said: “It adds something to that Liverpool midfield, which doesn’t quite have that skillset. The idea is to rotate a lot more.
“There will be so many games. This will be the shortest, most insane season ever, so to rotate players around is going to be brilliant for a team who play with so much energy.”
Why are Bayern letting him go?
It may come as a surprise that Bayern Munich are letting a player go who started and excelled in their Champions League final win over Paris St-Germain last month, for a relatively cheap fee.
But his contract would have expired next summer.
“Bayern are letting this happen – which is slightly negligent,” said Honigstein. “They tried to renew his contract late on. Now he is coming to Liverpool for a very small sum.
“Bayern didn’t have much choice in the end. They didn’t want to run down his contract, he didn’t want to run down his contract.
“He was agitating for Liverpool and Bayern to come to a decision. Bayern need to generate some money before they can spend again, such are the effects of coronavirus.”
Does it mean Wijnaldum will leave?
There had been reports that Liverpool’s 29-year-old Netherlands midfielder Wijnaldum could be allowed to leave this summer – with Barcelona interested.
James Pearce, the Athletic’s Liverpool reporter, told 5 Live: “Until the past few days the club’s stance was they would only firm up their interest in Thiago if they were to lose a midfielder and Wijnaldum was the obvious one.
“I don’t think it is inevitable Wijnaldum will go because since he has returned from international duty, the word has been he has knuckled down and wants to stay with Liverpool.”