Thiago silenced the doubters and produced a masterclass of a season in 2021/22, bringing Liverpool’s midfield the added dimension it needed.
The 31-year-old suffered an up-and-down first campaign at Anfield, having arrived from Bayern Munich to much fanfare in September 2020.
If that was a taster of his world-class brilliance, Reds supporters were treated to a nice full plate of it in 2021/22.
Started: 26 (All competitions)
On as a substitute: 13
Unused sub: 1
Overall Season Rating: 8.87 (=5th)
Some footballers feel almost magical, such is their natural talent – all you want to do is watch them perfect their craft.
Thiago is one of those, with few midfielders over the past decade possessing his passing technique, quick feet and ability to dictate games.
His first season at Liverpool was painful because we were so often robbed of this experience – even when he did play, it was in front of no fans and Jurgen Klopp was tackling injury problems.
While Thiago did miss the opening few games of 2021/22 with fitness issues, it wasn’t long before he was a fixture in the team.
* The top 10 goals were selected by UEFA's Technical Observer panel & put to a vote. pic.twitter.com/nWRKawGlro
The jury is still out on that one!
This was so key to Liverpoool seeing the best of him, and while his metronomic passing stood out, his overall game shone.
It can be easy to label a player of Thiago‘s ilk as a luxury, but the Spain international has a tenacity off the ball that often goes criminally underrated.
He pressed relentlessly all season and bit into tackles, producing the sixth-most successful pressures among the Liverpool squad (117), as per FBref, behind Mo Salah (127), Fabinho (131), Sadio Mane (143), Jordan Henderson (146) and Diogo Jota (164).
Thiago also won a total of 58 tackles, which was superior to all of his team-mates, further highlighting his off-the-ball presence.
It was in possession that he still caught the eye most, however, with his ability to break the lines and see passes others could only dream of.
Thiago gave Liverpool’s midfield the creative spark it had lacked for too long – a conductor who pulls the strings, offers unpredictability and negates the low block.
It was a nine-month period to treasure from a midfielder every bit as aesthetically pleasing as any Reds player in recent memory.
This was the player Liverpool supporters dreamed that they were getting in 2020 and he played a major part in a wonderful season.
Almost unrivalled influence
This is a Liverpool team littered with world-class talent, and with individuals who feel indispensable.
When he wasn’t around, you felt it, with Liverpool immediately more predictable and far less imposing as a team.
The midfield seemed invincible when they were around, as highlighted by the fact that they didn’t lose when both starting together until the 1-0 defeat to Inter Milan in March.
Thiago brings something that no other Liverpool midfielders are close to offering – or many players in the world for that matter.
He is the sprinkling of magic in the middle of the park, with the added winning mentality and fight to go with it.
There is no question that Thiago will again go into next season as one of Klopp’s key lieutenants, especially after enjoying a much-needed summer off to recharge.
He is now 31 and injuries do always feel possible, however, so relying on him week in, week out is something that feels unlikely.
For that reason, Thiago needs to be managed carefully by Klopp – as was the case this season – in order to see the best of him when he does play.
Eventually, the time will come when new regulars need to be starting in Liverpool’s midfield, but for now, Thiago‘s place in the Reds’ strongest team isn’t even up for debate.
Thiago won’t be around forever, so Liverpool fans should treasure every moment of him between now and whenever he eventually leaves.
He is an extraordinary player and one who has now delivered on that early hype.
Best moment: The goal against Porto, closely followed by the assist at home to Wolves.
Worst moment: A terrible first half away to Villarreal.
Role next season: Key player.