Exclusive interview with Thiago Alcantara: Liverpool midfielder evolves with help from Fabinho and Jurgen Klopp

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Exclusive interview with Thiago Alcantara: Liverpool midfielder evolves with help from Fabinho and Jurgen Klopp


Thiago Alcantara will step out at Anfield in front of a crowd for the first time as a Liverpool player when they face Crystal Palace on the last day of the season this weekend. But his first glimpse of the atmosphere of the famous old stadium came many years earlier.

“Wow,” he said Sky Sports as he remembers the 1998 UEFA Cup draw between Celta Vigo, his father’s World Cup winning team, and a Liverpool side containing Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher. Celta knocked the hosts out that night. A seven-year-old Thiago, eyes wide in the stands, relished the spectacle.

“I’ve been addicted to football since I was young. English football, Italian football, Spanish football. But it was my one and only experience as a fan in a stadium, ”adds Thiago.

“It’s one of the greatest memories I have because it was also a very successful night for my father’s team. Now I want to have the same memorable experience with an amazing crowd at this amazing stadium – but as a player. “

This time is approaching.

Twenty-three years after his first visit, Thiago is looking forward to playing in front of 10,000 fans at Anfield on Sunday as Liverpool aim to end a difficult season on a high. You can bet each of these fans will feel the same way watching it.

Few signings have garnered more enthusiasm than that of Thiago, a serial winner and world-class creator who sometimes seems to perform at a level all his own in midfield. But his first year in England was not easy.

He arrived from Bayern Munich after barely having a break after their Champions League final triumph over Paris Saint-Germain in August. A diagnosis of Covid in September was then followed by an untimely knee injury in October. When he finally returned in January, it was on one side ravaged by injury and struggling for form.

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Thiago went through a rough patch earlier in the season

Luckily for Liverpool, Thiago has never been one to drop his head. “It was difficult but I think I had worse times than that in my life,” he says. “With calm, hard work and resilience, you can overcome any situation. “

This is exactly what Thiago and Liverpool did.

Jurgen Klopp described finishing in the top four as ‘almost impossible’ in March, but they haven’t lost a Premier League game since and Wednesday’s win at Burnley sent them over Leicester and have put their fate in their hands before the last day.

“Looking back this season, we had a lot of walls in front of us that we had to break down,” said Thiago. “It was like that. We had a lot of important players injured and we had to create a new team and a new style – very similar to what we had, but with different players.

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Thiago has been an influential figure in the central midfielder

“In the end, we created a group that is fighting for a place in the Champions League, so it’s nice. “

The circumstances were particularly difficult for Thiago given that he already had to adjust to a new country and a new league.

The 30-year-old, who rose to prominence at Barcelona before following Pep Guardiola to Bayern, admits it took his time.

“At first I was surprised by the pace of the game and the long balls,” he says. “Some teams here really appreciate the length of the balls which can create great chances for them very quickly. And on the same point, the faster you put the ball in front, the faster it comes back. “

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Thiago’s death transformed Liverpool

When Thiago talks about ‘pace’ he is not referring to the speed of the game itself – “it’s the same all over Europe,” he says – but rather to the speed at which the game is played. continues at every moment.

“Throw-in, corner kicks, goal kicks… everything happens more quickly here and you have to adapt to it,” he said. “When there is a situation where you think you can breathe, the ball is already in play.”

To watch it now, you wouldn’t know Thiago found the transition difficult. In fact, he’s made it all easy lately. His recent goal against Southampton, for example, carried all of his characteristics.

When there is a situation where you think you can breathe, the ball is already in play

Thiago on the Premier League

There was the way he checked his run to make sure he received Roberto Firmino’s pass within a yard of space; the way he slipped past the wrong foot Stuart Armstrong; the way he used the inside of his boot – always the inside of his boot – to locate the bottom corner.

Awareness and anticipation. Intelligence and execution. These are Thiago’s areas of expertise and they have emerged recently thanks in part to the decision to move Fabinho from defense, where he has provided cover for much of the season, back to midfield.

The presence of the Brazilian in the role of holding allowed Thiago to play his natural game. It is no coincidence that Liverpool have won all seven games in which the pair have started together in central midfielder since the start of the year.

Fabinho lets Thiago Alcantara play higher on the pitch
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Fabinho lets Thiago play higher on the pitch

“When I arrived here I knew what Fabinho was like as a football player, what he did here and what he did in Monaco, but I didn’t know him personally,” says Thiago.

“He’s a very smart and intelligent player. He knows how and where to be in the field, and he has great strength in challenges. He is there, he is strong and he wins all the battles for us.

“Sometimes he has to deal with not only his own player but also my player or another teammate’s, but he does a great job defensively and you can also see that sometimes he comes forward offensively and does amazingly for us as a that well. “

He’s a very smart and intelligent player. He knows how and where to be in the field and he has great strength in challenges. He wins all the battles for us

Thiago sur Fabinho

Thiago has already developed a solid understanding with Fabinho on the pitch, but he admits it will take time to build connections like the ones he had at Bayern, where he got to know his team-mates’ movements inside and out.

“I was at Bayern for seven years,” he says. “In the end, it takes time. It’s not just about studying outside teammates. When you train with them, you also see their skills and flaws.

“You play with it all and that’s why football is a great sport in a collective way, because you can also get better by using the best skills of your teammates. “

What about your manager’s?

Mohamed Salah celebrates his goal with Fabinho and Thiago
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Fabinho and Thiago celebrate with Mohamed Salah

“He’s been great from the start,” Thiago says of Klopp, whom he faced Borussia Dortmund on several occasions in his first two seasons at Bayern.

“He is a very beloved person here in our team, our club and in the city as well. He is interesting and at the same time he is calm. He works hard, but also with funny words.

“It’s very interesting to learn and continue to grow alongside him. “

Thiago believes he has learned a lot in a season which, remarkably, will be the first of his senior career in which he has not won a trophy. In fact, this is only the second of the last 11 in which has not finished a winner of the league title.

For me the experience I had here is my trophy this year

Thiago sur Liverpool

Few players know better what it takes to maintain success than the predicament for Thiago and Liverpool this season has reminded them of how difficult it can be.

“The feeling that I have without a title or a trophy this year is how hard it is to get it,” he says.

“The main thing is to stay hungry but at the same time evolve and adapt, because even the 100% maximum you gave last year will not be enough next year.

“You always have to evolve and learn new things. You must be the same 100% player, but at the same time add something new to your characteristics. “



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Watch the highlights of Liverpool’s victory over Burnley

Thiago certainly does this in his new environment and he also points out that silverware isn’t his only motivation.

“For me, the experience I have had here is my trophy this year,” he says.

“Joining this team, training with these players every day, joining the league, visiting a lot of new stadiums and playing against great teams… I think those feelings are so important. “

For now, however, it’s all about Anfield on Sunday and finishing the job in front of the fans – much like his father did in front of him all those years ago.

Watch Liverpool vs Crystal Palace live on the Sky Sports Main Event from 3:50 p.m. on Sunday; kick off 4 p.m.

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