The noise surrounding a proposed move for Bayern Munich’s Thiago Alcantara to Liverpool intensifies, but officials on Merseyside insist the chatter is more advanced than the reality.
There is no ambiguity that Jurgen Klopp is a great admirer of the midfielder, and while he jars with the club’s usual strategy in terms of age, stage of career and injury record, the 29-year-old is a world-class, press-resistant player with supreme ball retention and progression attributes.
Given his pedigree and technical rareness, Liverpool are significantly interested in Thiago. It would be remiss of them not to explore the possibility of recruiting him.
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He is in the final year of his contract at the Allianz Arena, and naturally talks have taken place with his camp.
The Spain international is enthused by a move to Anfield and while his cost of around £30m and top-bracket wages would be weighty in a coronavirus-affected market when there is still so much up in the air around income next season, finance is not the key determining factor over a deal.
Liverpool already have seven senior midfielders on their books – not including Marko Grujic and Harry Wilson, whom offers would be welcomed for – in their best-stocked department.
Squad management and happiness is central to Klopp’s thinking and unless there are outgoings in the area, it is unlikely the signing of Thiago will happen.
As it stands, there is no expectation that anyone will depart. Xherdan Shaqiri’s appearances were restricted to just 11 last season, partly due to injury, but the Swiss international has shown no inclination to leave either publicly or privately.
Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Milner are all targeting greater game time in the new campaign.
In terms of Klopp’s preferred midfield three of Fabinho, captain Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum, there is only a question mark over the long-term future of the latter.
The Netherlands international is in the last year of his contract at Liverpool and Ronald Koeman’s appointment as Barcelona manager adds an interesting dynamic to the equation.
Wijnaldum, who was a core pillar of the 57-year-old’s work with Holland, has not dismissed taking on a new challenge. A change of scenery might appeal given his trophy haul at Anfield as well as the fact that he could earn a sizeable contract and become crucial in a rebuild.
It would not be a far-fetched scenario that Wijnaldum could agree a pre-contract with Barca or another suitor in January, with Thiago swapping in – if no-one swoops in for him this window.
Bayern have been adamant that they will not lose the metronome on a free, but that would ultimately be dictated by the market. The determination to bank a fee for him has promoted a feeling that they are fuelling the talk around a transfer.
The club’s chief executive, Karl-Heinz Rumenigge, told Munchen Abendzeitung: “Thiago is 29 now and as soon as the ‘3’ is up it will be a little more difficult to find a top club in Europe, so you have to understand him a little bit. He had a top club in Spain, a top club in Germany so maybe he would like to join a top club in England.
Bayern manager Hansi Flick added in Sport Bild: “Thiago played for Barcelona and seven years for Bayern Munich. He wants a new challenge which, in my opinion, should be the Premier League.”
The links to Manchester United as well as Paris Saint-Germain have not gone unnoticed. It benefits Bayern for there to be multiple bidders – and sooner rather than later.
Sales, however, will continue to design Liverpool’s business not just in a monetary sense, but with regards to the shape of the squad.
The move for Greece left-back Kostas Tsimikas for £11.75m Olympiacos was instructive. The club determined that to be a position in need of fortifying, but at a reasonable cost given the performances and brilliance of Andy Robertson.
Jamal Lewis was an option, but Liverpool had a bid of £10m rejected, with Norwich City wanting at least double for the player. They quickly turned to Tsimikas, who was also on their shortlist and represented a better deal.
That transfer was filed under ‘necessity’ rather than ‘nice to have’, and even then, Liverpool were measured about it. The cost was also mostly covered by Dejan Lovren’s exit to Zenit St Petersburg for £10.9m.
As ever, major injuries or other unforeseen circumstances – like a player unexpectedly pushing for a move – can affect transfer plans.
As has been evidenced since Klopp’s appointment and under sporting director Michael Edwards’ watch, there is a wide lens view on recruitment. Decision-making is not solely based on how superb a target is.
There is too much uncertainty at present for concrete declarations, but the basic line from Anfield is that Thiago is a player they would love to have under the right circumstances – and a factor in that is having space in the midfield for him without disrupting squad harmony.