Like Mozart at Metallica
The football world is wondering about Thiago
By Tobias Nordman
Liverpool FC are already taking a big step towards the final of the Champions League in the first duel with FC Villarreal. Jurgen Klopp’s team is impressively superior, but needs the genius of Thiago Alcántara to throw the Spaniards into chaos for two minutes.
The football player Thiago is many things, but certainly not the “heavy metal” type. That the Spaniard plays for Liverpool FC, with coach Jürgen Klopp’s high-speed machine, immediately seems as strange as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as the front man in the band Metallica. And in fact, the English football negotiations have made the technician’s decision the subject of their debates since he took up his job in the late summer of 2020. Because Thiago’s start in Liverpool had failed. Also, due to a corona infection and injuries, he never found the rhythm. Past. Thiago is admired.
The 31-year-old has been playing in excellent form for several months. Perhaps in the most constant of his life, of which he spent a large part as a footballer in FC Bayern. In 2022, the little playmaker provided several proofs of why football Mozart is the perfect addition to Klopp’s power ensemble. Liverpool is unstoppable. There was only one defeat in the calendar year. The Reds’ hunger for the title is huge, the historic four-pack entices. They have already won the League Cup, they have reached the FA Cup final against Chelsea and Thomas Tuchel, and Liverpool are only one point behind longtime rivals Manchester City in the league.
A particularly impressive display of Thiago’s class, which he carries with remarkable confidence, came this Wednesday night when the Reds took on the fantastic village club Villarreal FC in the first match of the Champions League semi-final at Anfield. Against the team that had driven Bayern to despair and eventually to knockout in the previous round.
And Liverpool also reached the Munich team’s state of mind against the very clever Spaniards, the great despair. Coach Unai Emery, whom they affectionately call the catcher in Spain because of his tactical genius, had given Klopps Red complicated complications that they could not solve. With their wild passion, they were always caught by the tightly woven web of guests. And Emery’s idea of putting Thiago close to the chain was particularly clever. Although he made several ball contacts in the first 30 minutes, he could not take control of the game because the resistance he received was enormous.
Two minutes of chaos in Villarreal
But after the first half hour, the metronome found the key to liberation. As a signal that he was finally in the game, he turned up the heat in midfield and hammered the ball into the crossbar from 25 yards. Thiago was awake. And he challenged Anfield with a conductor’s wild arm movements to do the same. Up to half time it was reasonable, but after that it was powerful. “Mozart” Thiago set the pace of the team from “largo” to “presto” – and staged the happy 1-0 because captain Jordan Henderson’s cross goal was rejected. Thiago first left an opponent with a fine body fraud on the left flank and finally chipped the ball into the middle before being attacked by the next opponent. The ball landed at Henderson and into the goal.
Thiago, the Reds ‘fine-tuned security service, had created chaos in the visitors’ perfect defensive structure for a brief moment. That was enough. And before the “yellow submarine” could dive back into its defensive stability in the Beatles’ home country, Sadio Mané had made it 2-0 just moments later after a raid. That’s how the game ended. “The key was to make room for us against a team like Villarreal,” said Thiago, who in turn managed to make it impressive. “I really liked the team’s performance, it was the best because we really reached our highest level and delivered today.”
“We played a really good match for 95 minutes. Super goal, a top-class performance,” Klopp excited, but warned his team not to be too hasty with complacency. “It’s only half time. There are 90 minutes left. It will be a completely different atmosphere. We have to make sure we are ready for it.” Thiago is one who has been ready for all that Liverpool FC can face this season for weeks. The man they so often in his career have accused of slowing down too much and diving into big games. It has long been sufficiently proven that this critique ignores the realities on the field. For example, in the Champions League final in 2020. There, the Spaniard did perhaps his best for Bayern in his last match, was the strongest man on the field against Paris St. Germain, however, was pushed out of the light by his teammate Kingsley Coman. He settled the match with his header.
Never really understood
Yes, FC Bayern and Thiago. It was a strange story for seven years. “Thiago or nothing,” Pep Guardiola said. His call was heard and the Spaniard was torn away from FC Barcelona for 25 million in the summer of 2013. And he enchanted the people of Munich with his technique and genius. But somehow she never really understood him. Maybe because they expected more from him than he gave them? Because he was not as present as expected in this year’s most important matches in his first years? Thiago was already admired, but the “but” in the evaluation of his performance never really wanted to disappear. Maybe it’s an appropriate punchline that he was best when it was time to say goodbye. To this day, he tears a hole in the Munich squad.
And footballer Thiago could deliver yet another suitable punch line. If the Reds reach the final in the top class, and Manchester City (4-3 in the spectacular first match against Real Madrid) participate, he could ruin his old mentor Guardiola’s dream of the first pool since 2011, the first pool with the Citizens.
Thiago is Liverpool’s key player these weeks. The difference player in a team with so many extraordinary football players, such as a Mo Salah or a Trent Alexander-Arnold, is probably the best back in the world at the moment. His stats against Villarreal are impressive: he had the most ball actions, brought 96 percent of his 103 passes to his teammates, and all nine transfers found their goals. He also won the ball ten times more. “He controls the midfield and plays brilliant passes,” the Daily Mail said, adding: “He was immobile when he was in possession.”
And even within the team, they sometimes rub their eyes in amazement at the things Thiago does on the field. “He’s ball safety personified. He creates extra holes with his movements and embodies the high art of football,” Joel Matip told “Kicker” earlier this month. The central defender does not even know “how many eyes Thiago has in his head, but what he is doing is incredible.” After the match, Klopp was asked about Thiago. And the coach responded with a counter-question: “There are people who have been in doubt about whether Thiago fits our style of play?” Yes, it was there. Klopp: “Thank God these people have nothing to decide.”