Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp, has found the perfect solution to Thiago’s contract problem.
While the immediate attention may be on the futures of Roberto Firmino, James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Naby Keta as their contracts enter the last six months, Liverpool has a couple more hard contract quandaries on the horizon.
The first is Jol Matip, who will be nearly 33 years old when his terms end. Matip has shown to be an excellent center-half under Jürgen Klopp, but he is also one of the most prone to injury.
It’s a similar story with Thiago, whose contract expires in the summer of 2024. On the one hand, he’s established himself as a world-class player, perhaps one of the best in his position, and he’s a good recruitment tool for the club in that many will want to play alongside him.
On the other hand, he’s getting older — he’ll turn 32 in April — and he’s a player who regularly misses extended periods of time. With a weekly salary of $247,00 (£200,000/€228,000) (the third-highest at the club after Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk , it’s easy to understand why Liverpool would be cautious.
However, a new reason to extend the Spaniard’s stay is developing.
Thiago can be a mentor to almost every player in the Liverpool squad since he is a proven winner, having won 11 domestic league championships and two Champions Leagues, but he is an especially valuable role model for the club’s young midfielders, particularly his adolescent compatriot Stefan Bajeti.
We’ve already discussed how veteran stars like Firmino, Van Dijk, and Trent Alexander-Arnold can mentor young players like Cody Gakpo, Ibrahima Konaté, and Calvin Ramsay, and that dynamic might be repeated here.
Following Preston North End’s 1-0 FA Cup triumph against Wolves in midweek, Ryan Lowe, manager of Championship team Preston North End and a big fan of Bajeti, shared some insight into how this may work.
“His alertness when the ball comes his way.”
“His awareness when the ball comes to him — I always say to my midfielders to always check your shoulder and be scanning — he knows the pass before it comes to him and listen, he’s playing with one of the best midfielders in the world, in Thiago also in there,” he told the Football Daily podcast.
“He’s getting that experience, but I just thought his passages of play, the way he moved the ball, on the front foot at times, interceptions, I thought the kid was fantastic and he’s got a bright, bright future at Liverpool.”
Klopp also explained how the master has been assisting his apprentice.
“The last few steps before he has to block the ball, that’s really good,” he said of the 18-year-old (via LFC). “Having then Thiago next to him is, I think, pretty helpful.”
We can see clear indications of Bajeti learning from Thiago already. The former Bayern Munich and Barcelona player is a known master of’scanning,’ or building a comprehensive image of what’s around him before the ball reaches at his feet, and Bajeti may see how he does it.
They’re currently playing slightly different roles in the side, with Bajeti acting as a number six and Thiago as a number eight, but there are clearly fundamental abilities shared by both positions. The academy graduate appears to be a different mold of number six than Fabinho, more closely associated with Thiago.
The intangible side must be considered too. Klopp says that Thiago ‘talks a lot’ on the pitch, and so you wonder if he almost coaches Bajčetić through games and training sessions at times. Much as he’s clearly a special talent in his own right, he will surely draw confidence from playing alongside a vocal and expert leader.