If Liverpool’s first two trips to the Champions League final under Jurgen Klopp were chaotic, the third, which is expected to be concluded on Tuesday, should be controlled.

Thiago Alcantara, in particular, is adding greater control to this incredible quadruple-chasing team.

“Was he a good fit for our football?” others wondered. Klopp recently expressed his displeasure with Thiago. “It’s a good thing these individuals don’t have to make decisions.”
Klopp, at least when it comes to buying players, is the man who seals the deal at Anfield, and his record in that regard over the last two years has been particularly impressive.

Diogo Jota had an immediate impact at Liverpool, shattering the long-established front three. Another winger, Luis Diaz, has been a revelation since signing from Porto in January and may have settled even faster. Ibrahima Konate has quietly impressed in his first season, earning a starting position in the Champions League.

Thiago was a sluggish starter after joining from Bayern Munich in the offseason of 2020, but he has certainly caught fire lately.
His no-look passes are eye-catching — and frequently catch captivated opponents off guard — but it’s the Spaniard’s touch, calmness, and footballing intellect that have really started to shine through in what is shaping up to be a season to remember for Liverpool.

As Liverpool travels to Estadio de la Ceramica for the second leg of the Champions League semifinals against Villarreal, Klopp will be looking for those attributes from Thiago.

Thiago was the ringleader once again in the first leg, completing 99 of his 103 passes in a rout of the English club. And it was Thiago who, when things were becoming a little stale in the first half as Villarreal’s players slowed the game down, energised the home crowd by whirling his arms in front of them after his long-range shot smacked off the outside of the post.

When Liverpool reached the final of Europe’s top competition in 2018-19, Klopp’s squads stood out for the havoc they wreaked on the opposition. The title-winning 2018-19 team scored three goals at Bayern Munich in the last 16, six over two legs against Porto in the quarterfinals, and then pulled off a spectacular 4-0 triumph over Barcelona in the second leg of the semifinals before falling to Real Madrid.

Thiago’s presence in midfield has given more calm to Klopp’s team this season, something was previously lacking.

Many, however, believed he was the wrong player for Liverpool in his first season, which was marked by a serious leg injury sustained against Everton that kept him out for the majority of the first half of last season, as well as injuries to teammates — particularly at center back — that forced a reshuffle of resources. With Fabinho moving to defense, Thiago was thrust into a deep-lying midfield role, where he was forced to shoulder defensive responsibilities and struggled with the game’s pace in his first experience of English football.

Thiago has directed Liverpool’s assaults this season, playing in a more forward-oriented position in front of Fabinho, backing up the lyrics of a song composed by the club’s fans for him.
Liverpool supporters chant “Thiago, Thiago Alcantara” to the tune of the Gibson Brothers’ “Cuba,” singing “You dance through the midfield like nobody other, the first time I saw you I knew it was love” and “He’ll roll you like a Cuban.” His passes are always successful.”

Klopp added, “He is a true football person who thinks a lot about football.” “He knew how we played, and he knew he’d fit right in, and we both knew it.”

Liverpool has completed their transformation under Klopp, with Thiago and Diaz becoming regulars in the team for Champions League matches. Diaz’s bag of tricks out on the left gives the Reds an air of unpredictability, while Thiago’s metronomic passing and control keep them ticking over.

With proven mainstays such as Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Virgil van Dijk, and Trent Alexander-Arnold, Klopp appears to have covered all bases. It’s why Liverpool is on the verge of making history.


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