Thiago Alcantara has been described as a luxury player in the past, but will he be considered too luxurious for Liverpool 2.0?
LIST Liverpool’s top three luxury players of all time.
Steve McManaman, Xabi Alonso, Philippe Coutinho, maybe?
How about David Fairclough, Divock Origi and Jari Litmanen?
Still no? OK, last try: Jean-Michel Ferri, Ragnar Klavan and Mike Marsh.
The difficulty about defining luxury footballers is that nobody can agree on what we mean by the term.
To many, it’s the creation of a roaming player. The type who aren’t near the scene of mucky business on the pitch.
This spawned the criminal misconception of the number 10 in the past. Stick him there, bit of a flair player. He’ll do the least amount of defending in that position.
It was only when we started to experience how the likes of Wayne Rooney and Roberto Firmino operated in deeper-lying, centre-forward positions was this slightly exposed as reductionist nonsense.
There are other affiliations to the term.
It can be born from an overspill in positions. Others will tell you it’s players who solely look good on the eye but offer little else.
Over the years we’ve fawned at the sheer technical brilliance of players like Gianfranco Zola, Dimitar Berbatov and Adel Taarabt (the streets won’t forget).
We fawn with caveats and guilt of “I shouldn’t be enjoying this” regret. We love to see those who make it look easy, but always assume there’s a tax involved.
Step forward Thiago Alcantara, Liverpool’s luxury pageant winner of 2020 to current date.
Thiago is the classic piece of football velvet that some people weirdly deny themselves the pleasure of. We love to watch him, but perceive it comes with the price of our dirty-work souls.
The truth couldn’t be further away. The Spaniard, by his own admission, has “learnt to run” under Jürgen Klopp and Liverpool.
In 2021-22, Thiago made 39 appearances out of Liverpool’s 64. He covered 191.1km in the Premier League and completed 107 sprints.
In the last two seasons, he has comfortably beaten the league average tackles and possession-adjusted interceptions per 90.
We remember the split-second lateness and fouls in his first season. Yet they lacked the traits of someone you may deem luxury.
Aesthetically, he’s one of the greatest to grace Anfield. Majestic in touch, head-on-a-pivot and can strike a ball with the sweetness of Xabi Alonso and accuracy of Steven Gerrard.
In many ways, he will be Klopp’s most intriguing signing at the club.
But as we enter the era of “Liverpool Reloaded” and plug the amps and heavy metal instruments back in, a question will loom about his role when fit.
There’ll be a perception that he doesn’t possess the off-the-ball qualities we now need to compete.
This, in my opinion, is a falsity based in many ways on how he plays the game.
A question of how he fits in Klopp’s 4-3-3 is more reasoned and still relevant to this day, especially without a player like Fabinho present.
If we define number eights as Curtis Jones and Dominik Szobozslai in this incarnation of a Klopp team, then it’s obvious Thiago is not that.
But he’s also not fit, another recurring trait that remains his most frustrating. Until he is, we can only guess as to his use.
Thiago is in the final year of his deal. A player who shunned the riches of Saudi Arabia to stay at Liverpool and play.
The question is now whether we can finally enjoy him.
To so many of us, output often outweighs ability. The concept of a day’s work and crawling through the door at its end.
But what about entertainment? What about paying to see the absolute best there is ply their trade.
The humility of seeing them and knowing you was nowhere near getting there yourself and laughing to yourself for being so foolish.
Our number six. In no way a guilty pleasure or weekend treat. This season will go a long way to shape his Liverpool legacy.
He might be many things, but a luxury player he certainly is not.