Thiago is back in Spain tonight and eyeing a third Champions League title… he’s worked tirelessly to become a vital cog in Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool machine – and with unfinished business in his adopted homeland, he’s returning at just the right time
- Thiago Alcantara returns to Spain after coming through Barcelona’s system
- Liverpool are 2-0 up ahead of Champions League semi second leg in Villarreal
- Thiago has adapted to life at Anfield and become a key part of Reds juggernaut
Villarreal will be looking to make home advantage count in their Champions League semi-final second leg showdown – but there will be one Liverpool player who will feel comfortable in the surroundings tonight.
Thiago Alcantara is back in Spain – the country where his professional career began, the location where he honed his silky skills.
The midfielder is a product of Barcelona’s prestigious La Masia academy after joining their ranks as a teenager. He was part of the successful star-studded Barca squad, including the likes of Andres Iniesta and Xavi between 2009 and 2013.
Liverpool midfielder Thiago Alcantara returns to Spain tonight to play Villarreal in second leg
His natural ability was clear to see at the Nou Camp but midfield competition was, understandably, high, plus injury setbacks meant his game time was limited in his first couple of seasons.
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola handed him his debut for the club and after four years of mixing it with some of the best players on the planet, he swapped Spain for Germany to reunite with his old manager at Bayern Munich.
He was undeniably good enough to play for Barcelona but arguably didn’t fully showcase his talents while at the Nou Camp. He notched 11 goals and supplied 20 assists in 100 appearances for the Catalan giants.
Thiago won four Spanish league titles, the Champions League, as well domestic cups and in seven years at Bayern added trophies galore. Now, he’s eyeing his third European Cup with Liverpool.
His £20million switch from Germany to Merseyside in the 2020 summer transfer window came out of the blue, but was met with much fanfare among the Liverpool faithful.
Snapping up a midfielder who effortlessly dictates play at minimal cost has proved to be another example of good transfer business by the Reds hierarchy.
Thiago was at Barcelona for four years and is eyeing a third Champions League with Liverpool
But it has not been all plain sailing for the 31-year-old since his arrival. His first season was hugely hampered by illness and injury.
Thiago first contracted coronavirus and then was forced to miss two months of the campaign on the sidelines after sustaining a knee injury in the Merseyside derby.
When he did return, Liverpool’s midfield was disrupted with Fabinho and Jordan Henderson having to fill in at the back amid their defensive injury crisis.
Former Reds midfielder Didi Hamann criticised the Spain international, saying that he was slowing down the side’s play.
‘He slows things down and doesn’t really play the way Liverpool play,’ he said.
The 31-year-old won the man of the match award for his display in first leg against Villarreal
‘Liverpool in the past have had hard-working midfielders, they were not as skilful as Thiago, but they have the ball to [Sadio] Mane and [Mohamed] Salah early.
‘If you get the ball early on the wing, and theses guys can run at players they are very hard to stop.
‘I just feel with Thiago, everyone was raving about him coming to Liverpool, he’s hardly played.’
Jurgen Klopp hit back at those claims in recent weeks, insisting he never doubted Thiago’s suitability for his team.
‘People were questioning if he suits our football? Thank God these people don’t make decisions,’ Klopp said.
‘If a player is calming a game down in moments due to a lot of reasons – one of them is just to have a look, or whatever – it is of course nothing we thought (was wrong).
‘It is more important Thiago wanted to join us and he knew how we played. He is a real football person and thinks a lot about football. He knew how we played and he knew he would fit in and we knew it as well.’
Reds boss Jurgen Klopp defended Thiago following criticism for his performances last season
Thiago has done just that – slotted in and become an integral part of Liverpool’s blistering 2021-22 campaign.
After taking time to adapt to life at Anfield, Thiago has found his range and is demonstrating his wizardry with a ball.
His composure, class and quality to orchestrate a game, as well as his love for the club, clear from his social media activity, means he’s made his mark on and off the pitch.
Thiago played Villarreal three times in his Barcelona days and never lost. He’s back in his adopted homeland – he was born in Italy – tonight and he’s reached a position now where he could not be more at home.