Despite claims from critics that he would slow down Liverpool’s play before he arrived, Thiago Alcantara now holds the key to the midfield…


HAVE you ever watched greatness?

I mean, real greatness. The kind that makes you sit back, shake your head in disbelief and think ‘wow’.

A mate tells me that on two occasions he’s not celebrated Luis Suarez goals, or at least not in the conventional sense. Instead, he just stayed still and repeated the same expletive out loud several times. Genuine awe.

That is what it is to watch Thiago Alcantara play football. A midfield maestro, Liverpool’s not-so secret weapon.

There was a time not too long ago when some suggested he would slow us down and harm Klopp’s style of play. It was a take adopted by multiple pundits in the midst of the most mitigating circumstances last season. The defenders were out, the midfielders became the defenders, and Thiago was suddenly being asked to manage the load.

This season however, with the challenging circumstances now removed, Thiago has cemented his status at the heart of Klopp’s engine room, shining in a team full of talent. In the last week alone, he has produced two of the best midfield performances you’ll see.

Liverpool's Thiago Alcantara applauds the supporters as he is substituted during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester United FC at Anfield

He was outstanding against Manchester City in the FA Cup semi final, seemingly bending the game to his will, evading tackles and setting Liverpool on the front foot. His assist was an illustration of a master at the very top of his craft, manipulating space, dropping a shoulder to fool his opponent before finding a teammate. It was everything you could want from a midfielder and more.

And yet, just as you think you’ve seen it all, he somehow finds a way to raise his level again.

There are good performances – great ones even – and then there is Thiago versus Manchester United. He was untouchable. Irresistible.

It was the type of performance that sent you into some sort of hypnotic trance. He was everywhere and anywhere. Controlling, dictating, directing. Klopp’s orchestrator at the very top of his game. You’d be hard pressed to find a more dominant midfield performance.

His tackles put Liverpool on the front foot and his general awareness and reading of the game enabled the front three to run riot. He oozed class right from the first whistle until the most deserving standing ovation Anfield will give all season. He is the ultimate chess player, able to anticipate every move. A touch of class. A player in a league of his own.

Breaking down low-block defences has been an issue in recent years, but with Thiago’s quality on the ball those troubles are a thing of the past. He is so often the man that assumes control of the game, picking the lock and delivering the sucker punch. Even when pressed he possesses the uncanny ability to wriggle free. No wonder Paul Pogba packed it in after nine minutes.

Liverpool's Thiago Alcântara (C) and Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' (R) with Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester United FC at Anfield

It amazes me how at ease he looks with the ball at his feet, like a kid in the playground totally unfazed by what unfolds around him. A 60-yard through ball? Alright. A perfectly executed half-volley to the opposite flank? Why not? He makes the hardest things look effortlessly easy.

He is a supremely gifted footballer in possession, but it’s his work off the ball which is just as impressive; triggering the press and getting the ball back. On Tuesday night he covered more ground than any other player on the pitch, breaking up play on the rare occasions United looked threatening.

When he plays in midfield, particularly alongside Fabinho, everything else around him seems to tick. The balance is spot on, the energy unrelenting, the creativity clear. He is the very best and what he does, and this season Liverpool are reaping the rewards.

It was one of the best individual performances Anfield has ever seen. When he plays like this, Liverpool look unstoppable.

To a man, The Reds were a class above on Tuesday night, but it could well have been Thiago’s best performance in a Liverpool shirt. This team is an entirely different prospect when he is on the field and keeping him fit for the run-in is critical.

An absolute gem of a footballer. No one would dare question his impact now.

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