When we remember some of the great midfielders ever to play in a Liverpool shirt, the typical names come up. Steven Gerrard, John Barnes, Xabi Alonso, and Graeme Souness, to name a few.
However, throughout the last decade of the history of Liverpool football club, there was no player better suited to join this list than Thiago Alcantara. The Spaniard joined the Reds in 2020 after a highly decorated tenure at Bayern Munich.
Many fans had high expectations for the signing, and rightfully so, with Thiago’s style of play being a unique element to the squad.
Roughly four years later, with a League Cup medal, FA Cup medal, and Champions League final appearance to his name, you would think that Thiago’s signing was all but a success, but this isn’t necessarily the case in the eyes of Liverpool supporters.
It’s time to address the biggest Elephant in the room, Thiago’s injury record. Since his arrival in the 20/21 season, the Spaniard has missed 82 games through injury. This substantial number of absences is far from ideal, especially given the levels of consistency that Liverpool needs to reach to meet expectations.
This season was especially frustrating, given the amount of time allotted for Thiago to recover from his hip injury, only to re-injure it after a brief five-minute cameo in Liverpool's 3-1 loss to Arsenal.
The blow certainly encapsulated Thiago's Liverpool career in a nutshell, and it goes to show the difficulties of coming back from a major injury at the highest level of the sport, even with the latest advancements in modern sports medicine.
While his tendency to be injury-prone isn't necessarily Thiago's fault, there is a reason why availability is a skill in and of itself. Unfortunately, this is one of the few footballing skills that we can say Thiago desperately lacks.
Call it genetics, physiology, or just pure bad luck, the harsh reality for Thiago is, for all the world-class attributes he could bring to a club, it also comes with the inevitability that he will miss quite a few games here and there.
This is arguably the most frustrating portion of this article to write. Despite his injury record, what Thiago brings to the midfield when healthy is undeniable.
World-class ball control, excellent distribution, supreme football IQ, and intelligence in possession are the typical qualities associated with the Spaniard. This was evident throughout the 21/22 season, ironically, the only year Thiago was consistently available.
That year, the Spaniard was one of the squad’s standout performers, as Liverpool won the domestic cup double and came agonizingly close to winning the Premier League and Champions League.
Thiago was awarded accordingly with a PFA Team of the Season selection that year, showing how much of an impact he could provide when fit.
There's no doubt that Thiago is one of the best midfielders of this football era. Even with the injury history, his impact when on the pitch, especially from a standpoint of dictating the game, is unmatched.
Obviously, Liverpool fans might share more polarizing opinions on the Spaniard, and rightfully so. But there's no doubt that, when fit, he's been a critical piece in Klopp's engine room over the last few years. Whether it's that daisy-cutting strike against Porto in the 2021 Champions League group stages, or single-handedly controlling the midfield against Manchester City in the 2022 FA Cup semi-final,
Thiago has definitely gone on to drop quite a few world-class performances. Unfortunately, this leaves a lot of Liverpool fans wondering what could've been, rather than looking back with fondness.
While he probably has played his last ever game for Liverpool in that loss to Arsenal, I would say that it was an absolute pleasure to watch Thiago play in a Red shirt.
While it definitely could've gone better in terms of him leaving a more enduring legacy with the club, he did play a part in delivering success throughout undoubtedly Liverpool's most successful period in the modern era.