Jurgen Klopp has a tougher job now that Thiago is a Liverpool player. The boss will absolutely relish the situation, however.
Liverpool formally announced Thiago’s signing on Friday. The Spaniard joins for £20m, per the BBC, but that could rise to £25m. Thiago will wear the number 6 and has a four-year contract.
And so it’s finally done. We’ve seen links between the club and player for months on end but it’s over – Thiago is a Liverpool player.
He’s got the potential to be an outstanding one, too. The Reds now have an elite possession-based midfielder in their lineup. They’ve not had one of those for a very long time.
And yet, for all he brings, this is a transfer that makes Klopp’s life more difficult. But he’ll absolutely love that.
Klopp now had a ton of midfield options. So many, in fact, that initial reports claimed Liverpool wouldn’t sign Thiago because they already had too many centre-midfield players.
Perhaps one or two will now disappear – Gini Wijnaldum has one year left on his contract, after all. But as things stand, Klopp has more options than he needs.
Not that he’ll complain.
But it’s important to remember that all but one of these options were here last season. Klopp could pick between Jordan Henderson, Wijnaldum, Fabinho, Naby Keita, James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Adam Lallana and Curtis Jones last season.
And yet, he had an undisputed first-choice three – Henderson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum. That’s the trio he went back to for every major game and it has been the reliable selection for two years now.
There’s a comfort in that for a manager. He doesn’t have to worry about selection or how the team will fit together – there’s a clear first-choice and everyone knows how they click. That feeling is amplified by the fact that front-three picks itself, too, and most of the back five on top of that.
Thiago, though, is a spanner in the works.
Thiago is now the best midfielder at the club. That’s not to say the others aren’t fantastic – Henderson just won Football Writer’s Association Player of the Year, for one – but Thiago is in the argument for best in the world.
Especially at his deep-lying playmaker role. Few are better at picking the ball up deep, bursting past a man, and starting a dangerous move. There may not be anyone better.
And thus Klopp will use Thiago frequently and likely start him in every big game. The ‘comfort’ of knowing exactly what you’re doing is gone.
Because that first-choice three meant Klopp knew how he was going to play, certainly in midfield. The trio are all versatile, hard-working, disciplined players, meaning the boss could change their mentality in-game. Do Liverpool need to defend their own box? All three can do that. They can pass, too, and press high up the pitch.
They can all cover full-backs and all threaten the opposition goal. Whatever Klopp needed, they could do it. There’s a real comfort in that.
Thiago is different. He’s a specialised midfielder and an elite one at that. If he’s playing, Liverpool are playing a certain style – they’re passing the ball through Thiago. If you’ve got him, then you need to do that. Otherwise, why have you got Thiago?
But now Klopp has choices to make. If Thiago is playing, who are the best players to partner him against the given opposition? Should we play 4-2-3-1? Should we leave him out and play the usual versatile trio?
Each question – and many others – will differ game by game. That’s the ‘problem’ Klopp now has with Thiago. His comfort is gone and decisions now lie all over the place.
But as Liverpool look to kick on and grow after two successful seasons, you can bet the boss relishes it all.