Signed in 2020, now worth 80% less: Liverpool’s “staggering” star has been Keita 2.0
Jurgen Klopp has hit the mark so many times but this “staggering” star has left much to be desired.
Over time, Liverpool supporters have come to trust Jurgen Klopp’s judgement in the transfer market, with the illustrious Premier League outfit often delving down a shrewder road than their rivals when improving the squad.
While staple members Alisson Becker and Virgil van Dijk were signed for lofty figures, deals for iconic Klopp stars such as Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Andy Robertson and Joel Matip – certainly not an exhaustive list – were welcomed for bargain sums in today’s jaw-dropping landscape.
The remarkable accuracy in the transfer market has left certain rivals rueing their own lack of discernment and has been the foundation of the Reds’ success under Klopp’s wing.
But it hasn’t always gone well and there are a few deals littered throughout the German’s tenure that are best left in distant memory.
Indeed, three-and-a-half years ago Liverpool ventured to sign Thiago Alcantara, long considered one of Europe’s superlative centre-midfielders, though the Spain international’s time on Merseyside has been marred by an incredible series of injury problems.
Liverpool’s signing of Thiago Alcantara
It was 2020 and Liverpool were preparing for the eventuality of Gini Wijnaldum’s sale; the Dutchman has one year remaining on his current contract and renewal looked unlikely. A replacement was needed.
Wijnaldum would indeed move to Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer one year later but FSG moved to sign Thiago from Bayern Munich and wrapped up a deal for a fee rising to £25m.
Long regarded as a “magnificent” footballer with “outstanding technique” – as was once said by Phillip Lahm – the La Masia youth graduate had won honours in abundance throughout a glittering career, notably gleaning the Champions League with both Bayern and Barcelona, and his acquisition looked a no-brainer for a heavy metal Liverpool side transitioning toward a style with a tad more control and composure.
The one little concern was an unflattering injury record, but then there was hope that that wouldn’t present too large a quandary.
Thiago Alcantara’s Liverpool career so far
Thiago has completed 98 appearances for Liverpool and played a big role as Klopp chased a quadruple in 2021/22 – unsuccessfully, sure, but not without triumph in the FA Cup and Carabao Cup.
The £200k-per-week star enjoyed success that year and actually started 17 Premier League matches during that season, completing 89% of his passes and averaging 1.2 key passes, 1.9 tackles and 4.5 successful duels per fixture, as per Sofascore.
He was important last season but fell to injury in the new year and made his final Premier League start against Wolverhampton Wanderers at the beginning of February.
Yet to feature from the outset since Thiago made his anticipated return off the bench during Liverpool’s recent defeat against title rivals Arsenal, but got fans groaning after bewildering news that he had suffered a hamstring issue.
These incessant problems have caused the player’s transfer value to plummet, with Football Transfers recording Thiago’s current value at just £4m, which marks an 80% decrease – such has been the enormity of his decline.
Once praised for his “staggering” talents by pundit and former Liverpool man Michael Owen, Thiago has enjoyed some fine moments but all too often has watched on in shadowed obscurity as his confreres fight for honours.
He’s not been the most expensive addition during Klopp’s reign and while he carries the patina of a wisened and cultured veteran, he has been unable to strut his stuff with the slightest bit of regularity, and it remains to be seen if Liverpool will get more than a sliver out of his services before the end of the campaign.
Worse than Naby Keita
They say that availability is the best ability, and while this is worn-out phrasing it certainly speaks a truth regarding Thiago’s Liverpool career.
Endowed with such scintillating technical ability and tactical intelligence that allows him to control matches with remarkable ease, Thiago is comfortably one of the best players to perform under Klopp at Liverpool, when going off raw quality alone.
One of the most aesthetically pleasing strikes you'll see 😍
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) April 11, 2023
However, raw quality is only one of many important facets down a winding path toward success and the 32-year-old’s startling inability to maintain fitness has ravaged any hopes of etching his name into Premier League lore for his feats on the pitch.
This is not the first time Reds supporters have been led to get excited by a high-profile addition to the midfield, with Naby Keita’s £53m acquisition back in 2018 supposed to be a game-changing move during Liverpool’s primitive face under Klopp, who dubbed the Guinean “the complete midfielder.”
In a similar decline, Keita managed only stuttering glimpses of the quality that prompted Klopp to grant such an expensive outlay, scoring 11 goals and supplying seven assists across 129 fixtures in all competitions for the Anfield side but, given that he completed five campaigns in England, this averages out to a measly 26 appearances per term.
To put that in perspective, Mohamed Salah averaged 51 games per season during the same period.
Like Thiago, Keita is among Europe’s most naturally talented midfielders and has even been hailed for his “world-class” attributes by Virgil van Dijk in the past, but given that the former has reaped lucrative rewards across both German and Spanish pitches, it’s hard to feel more aggrieved by Keita’s struggles.
The end date draws ever closer and it’s very hard to imagine a world where Thiago, who turns 33 in two months exactly, pens new terms and has another shot at crafting a successful campaign for himself.
There’s a wistful air surrounding these closing months of Thiago’s Liverpool career and it will very much go down as a transfer that offered some lovely, influential moments but ultimately failed to deliver even a portion of the goods.
Klopp’s sweeping changes to the midfield last summer have allayed any fears that Thiago’s exit might be detrimental but it is a real shame nonetheless. He’s one of the finest footballers around.