Liverpool fans didn’t even wait to catch a glimpse of Thiago Alcantara in a Reds shirt before writing his memorable terrace chant last summer, as the Spaniard flew to Merseyside to complete his transfer from £ 25million from Bayern Munich.
Still, they had to remain horribly patient to see the best of the Spain international at Anfield.
A mix of coronavirus and injuries had limited him to just one departure from the Reds until 2021, as his return coincided with the dramatic collapse of Liverpool’s title defense.
With a plethora of injuries rocking Jurgen Klopp’s side as they fell off the table, Thiago was thrown deep into the ends in a failed attempt to revitalize their fortunes.
However, as winter turned into spring and players became available again, the Reds finally started to see the Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Spain Thiago they had been waiting for.
A debut goal against Southampton was the obvious highlight, but the playmaker offered much more, dictating engine room play with ease as his frustrated look at being pulled out earlier in the week was replaced by a total domination 90 minutes after 90 minutes.
Then finally, on the last day of the season, when 10,000 Liverpool fans were allowed to cram at Anfield, they got a first glimpse of Thiago as Champions League football was secure again.
And they knew it was love.
The Spaniard will be a key player for Klopp’s side next year as he looks to build on that impressive for his first season at the club, while his place in a midfield trio with Jordan Henderson and Fabinho is a really enticing thought.
Still, Liverpool fans are looking forward to seeing Thiago dance in the midfield in a packed Anfield, the playmaker was surprisingly deprived of this opportunity at Euro 2020.
He put on the number 10 jersey, and after this strong end-of-season season, the hope would have been, part of their organization since 2011, that he would be a mainstay for his country at the European Championships this summer.
Yet even though he can get through a midfielder like no one else, Luis Enrique clearly doesn’t see him with the midfielder on the outside, looking inside.
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This Spanish team is admittedly caught in the transition, turning to youngsters like Pedri and Eric Garcia while gradually removing the older guard of Sergio Ramos with Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba no doubt on their last international matches.
Although he is younger than the Barcelona duo, Thiago could find himself in the same situation after Euro 2020.
Yet while Busquets and Alba have been the top picks for the majority of this tournament as Spain clings to their former World Cup and European Championships tiki taka success, Liverpool’s number six has been deprived of such an opportunity.
With Enrique favoring 18-year-old Pedri throughout the tournament, Thiago had to settle for just three substitute appearances and was only introduced to action after extra time when the Spaniards won in quarter-final against Switzerland on penalties.
It was a similar story when they met Italy in the semi-finals as Spain tried unsuccessfully to recreate their old-fashioned magic.
Dominating possession against one of the tournament favorites, La Roja huffed and puffed without much success, falling behind an effort from Federico Chiesa before belatedly claiming a 1-1 draw after 90 minutes.
Still, Thiago remained anxious and unused on the sidelines as Alvaro Morata, Gerard Moreno and Rodri were all turned on him, with Adama Traoré and Marcos Llorente due to be given the green light before the former equalized in the 80th minute.
That didn’t stop him leading the celebrations from the bench, sprinting on the sidelines to celebrate with his teammates.
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He got the call late at halftime in extra time as Spain looked for a late breakthrough in place of Busquets, but with the Spain captain on a yellow card, it was more to avoid an unwanted expulsion from his teammate only to unlock a stubborn Italian defense.
With little time to make an impact as penalties were needed to decide the game, the midfielder scored his shot on goal but it was not enough for Italy to advance to the final.
However, the use of Rodri and then of Llorente in particular in front of Thiago leaves question marks which weigh on his status in this Spanish team.
Before the game, when asked about his use of the midfielder, Enrique offered cryptic reasoning for his lack of appearances.
“Thiago is a very good player,” he told reporters. “You know and everyone knows his quality, but we’re a strong team and I try to give them minutes.
“He helps the team a lot because he is an experienced player and we are very happy to have him in the team.
“After that, I have to decide and my decision speaks much better than I do. “
Still, does his lack of playing time suggest Spain are considering a future without Thiago as we move closer to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar?
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While the midfielder will be frustrated with his international situation this summer, it could well play directly into Liverpool’s hands ahead of the new season.
Not even having been Spain’s go-to option on the bench as they limped through the Euro before their semi-final exit, he could now find himself at an international crossroads.
If not part of Enrique’s future in Spain, Liverpool will benefit from a rested player spared from international duty throughout the season, with James Milner the perfect example of how this can be done. prove to be beneficial.
However, if he wants to regain his place in this midfielder of La Roja, he will have to do so through his performances on the Anfield ground.
His end of the season was clearly not enough to convince Enrique, whose decision not to launch the playmaker, or even to use him more on the bench, “speaks better” than him.
Either way, he certainly has a point to prove when he returns to Anfield as he seeks to make sure his failed start to career at Liverpool is not repeated and demonstrates why Reds fans adore him. so deeply.