Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcantara wants to play for Jurgen Klopp, but what would he bring to the Premier League champions if they signed him?
Thiago wants to play for Jurgen Klopp - with one year left on his Bayern deal, he's not going to sign a new one and the perennial German champions believe he's going to go to the Premier League.
Bayern's sporting director Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said they're willing to let him go for a decent offer - which is thought to be around £30m and talks are said to have begun with the Premier League champions.
Liverpool are not due to be big spenders and that amount for a 29-year-old, who only has a year left on his deal, may not have been seen as good business by Anfield transfer guru Michael Edwards, but they'd be getting a proven operator at a world class level.
Thiago has been billed as just the player Klopp needs in that midfield - a more technically gifted player than they have at the moment in their three-man engine room - that currently provides pressing, pace and power but not too much guile and creativity.
The question is, where and how will Thiago fit in?
Where would Thiago fit in?
He's not an athletic powerhouse runner, so fitting Thiago into the Liverpool midfield would mean tweaking Klopp's 4-3-3 system somewhat.
Up to now, the Reds haven't really needed to mess about with formations too much, but a condensed season next year and a smaller squad means they may well have to. Liverpool's midfield trio have been all about hunting and chasing down the opposition, limiting space and time, winning the ball quickly and moving it on even quicker in transition to their dangerous front three.
Thiago offers something different, something more like Philippe Coutinho - a playmaker and dribbler - something that hasn't been seen at Anfield since the Brazilian left. He's been linked with a return but there's no sign that he'd be welcomed back any time soon.
There are a couple of ways Thiago could fit into Liverpool's team and, at 29 with a decent fee, he'd have to slot in right away. Firstly, it's just slipping in to that midfield three, most likely alongside Jordan Henderson and Fabinho.
Turnover and changes in that area could be more common next season - Klopp will try and stick with a similar defence and front three but the demands made on his men in the middle mean that they'll have to chop and change.
Gini Wijnaldum looks the most natural man to miss out, given he's in the last year of his contract and Liverpool are yet to contact him about a new one. As the radar graph above shows, Thiago is a much more technical player, who can run with and pass the ball more dangerously in the final third and could help with setting a tempo in midfield and controlling games.
Thiago's also outdone Wijnaldum in ball recoveries and defensive actions though, which may surprise some, but show that he's able to work hard and win the ball back.
As the Spaniard's heat map shows above, he can also float around the pitch in that midfield area and, should Klopp need to change to a 4-2-3-1 formation for any reason, then he could nicely slot in to that No.10 role behind a striker.
That's quite a shift in style for Liverpool, but with their front three playing so much football over the last few years they may need a rest, and as yet they don't really have any like-for-like replacements. There's a definite and worrying drop-off in quality when either Salah, Mane of Firmino don't play.
A formation change may be the only way to keep them strong even without one of their red arrows up front - there are, of course, other candidates for that role already at Anfield, one being Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has shown flashes of brilliance but we're still not sure what his best position is.
Expert view: 'Reds would win everything with Thiago'
German football expert Raphael Honigstein recently told the Sky Sports Transfer Talk podcast that Thiago would be the ideal signing for Liverpool this summer.
"In Germany they are saying that if Liverpool buy Thiago, they'll win every game next year," he said.
"He's just been so good. If there's one player they're missing in that midfield it's that technical player. More of a creator and a dribbler, somebody who scores spectacular goals and can find a pass.
"It's not a player that Liverpool have accommodated in recent years and it would change the dynamic of their midfield if you find space for him.
"There's been no firm offer yet from anyone, but Bayern are bracing themselves for Liverpool because that's the rumour in the dressing room.
"I think that would be a big blow for them as he's more or less been running games for them and is an absolute key player in my mind. It'll be very difficult for Bayern to find a player who is like Thiago, who's so unique in his technical ability."
Do Liverpool already have Thiago type players?
One thing missing from Liverpool's dominant side is that creative and attacking spark from midfield, as mentioned a player who gets their foot on the ball and controls the tempo of the game, while also able to run with the ball and find a killer pass.
Whether Klopp needs to add that to a team that's just walked the league and won 196 points in tow seasons is another story - but as they saying goes if you're not moving forward you're going backwards, and signings need to be made.
A major problem, and it's a nice problem to have, with signing Thiago is just where and when you play him, as there seems to be just Wijnaldum's place up for grabs in the side, unless the formation is changed as discussed, and many Reds fans believe Naby Keita and Curtis Jones are ready to make huge strides next season.
Keita gave us a glimpse of what he can do with his performances after the lockdown, but he's not yet put a good run of games and performances together.
He is, though, a player that can offer Liverpool an attacking threat, a killer pass and also run with the ball at his feet. Although he's not played regularly, Keita's stats are impressive as he just about matches Thiago for dribbles and final third passes, while doing much better with completed key passes, shooting and assisting shots and also accelerations.
Keita also matches Thiago for attacking and defensive actions, but doesn't win the ball back as much. Overall though, almost everything that is being touted as Thiago's strengths can be found in Keita, so maybe should Liverpool sign a £30m playmaker when they've already got a £52m playmaker within their ranks?
Experience and consistency counts, of course, and Thiago has been there and done it on the big stages, and with Keita's injury record it'd be wise not to totally depend on him - but if he can enjoy a long run of form then he could well become the proverbial 'like a new signing' player Liverpool could boast to help them improve next season.
And don't rule out Jones playing more often next season. He's taken the number 17 shirt for 20/21, once worn by Steven Gerrard, and plays with a style and swagger that you can't help but be impressed with.
A glance of his stats, albeit with a small sample size, reveal he too measures up well in terms of dribbling and final third passes with Thiago, while adding more shots on goal (including that FA Cup wonder goal against Everton).
Verdict on signing Thiago
So, what of signing Thiago? In a normal season you suspect he'd already have been signed, alongside Timo Werner for that matter, as Liverpool look to strengthen while they're on top and while one of the most attractive clubs to play for in the world.
However, the current situation means they have to keep an eye on the budget, and while you could argue that the money would be better spent on a forward or centre back, Thiago offers that experience along with technical quality that, at the price, looks a sure-fire hit of a signing.
A 'benefit' if you could call it that, of the footballing landscape is that games will come thick and fast next season so more players will be needed, and Liverpool's midfield is one of the most physically demanding around.
Signing Thiago for £30m is a good deal, there's no two ways about it, but Klopp may not need to sign Thiago and, if he does, he will just have to carefully juggle his troops around to maintain the right balance.
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