Why Liverpool need to prioritise a Thiago replacement this summer


Jurgen Klopp wasn't the only one to call time on his Liverpool career this weekend. The Reds also said goodbye to Joel Matip and Thiago Alcantara with both players departing on a free following the expiration of their deals.  


All three will leave voids within this squad in their own respective ways, but the only one that could likely be replaced is Thiago. 


There's not another manager out there like Klopp and Arne Slot would be foolish to try and replace the German tactician. He needs to put his own stamp on things, and quickly.  


Matip, in his own unique way, was a generational player. Few defenders in the world have the ball-carrying ability that the 32-year-old possesses. He is also a juggernaut in the air. The sort of player you would usually look to build an entire defence around had it not been for the many, many injuries.  


You can't simply replace Matip with a like-for-like player. They don't exist. But the Reds could bring in a defender that ticks a number of boxes.  


So, bizarrely, the easiest task for Liverpool is to replace arguably one of the few, genuine world class players within their ranks.  


And while he's barely featured this season, racking up just five minutes in his single appearance for the Reds, his departure should not be overlooked, ignored or downplayed.  


He is a loss and finding his successor should be a priority. It doesn't necessarily mean Michael Edwards and Richard Hughes need to delve into the transfer market and spend big money on a midfield maestro. They could decide to look internally. 


Thiago’s stint on Merseyside has been marred by countless injuries but, when fit, the Reds nearly won the quadruple with him pulling the strings. That season alone outlines just how important having a player like that, with his ability, is.  



The 2021/22 campaign saw the one-time Barcelona midfielder make 25 appearances for Liverpool in the Premier League, though eight of those arrived via the bench. He finished that season with a WhoScored average rating of 7.10. For context, Alexis Mac Allister was the highest rated midfielder for the Reds in the English top-flight this season with 7.09. And the World Cup winner, thanks to his final day strike against Wolves, finished with 10 goal involvements. 


Thiago impressed without the goal involvements, and that takes some doing.  


He was a difference-maker with the ball. A match-winner without it, in a lot of ways. He knew where to be, when to play a pass and how to dominate the space.  


That is what Liverpool need to replace. Not just the name or the reputation, but the influence and know-how.  


You could argue that Mac Allister has the potential to be that guy. But the ex-Brighton man can be a lot of things and that is what makes him something of a conundrum when it comes to squad management.  


He could be an anchor in midfield. After all, Klopp used Mac Allister as the No.6 for the majority of the first half of the season and Liverpool had one of the best defensive records while also impressing in attack. So it did work, even if some thought it was a waste of his talents.  


The 25-year-old then caught the eye going forward after the introduction of Wataru Endo into the starting XI. The Liverpool No.10 plays both roles well and this is what makes finding a long-term role for him not as straightforward as some might've thought.  


If the Reds commit to turning him into Thiago's heir, does he lose something from his game?  


Do Liverpool lose something from their team by turning him into a specialist rather than a jack of all trades type? Does Mac Allister even have the same ability as the Spain international? That is quite subjective but those in charge need to make an objective decision this summer.  


What they decide to do with the versatile midfielder will shape what they do in the transfer market. But finding someone to succeed Thiago could be the difference between success and failure. Especially when the margins at the top level are so thin.

Why Liverpool need to prioritise a Thiago replacement this summer