Within that league table of “will they / will won’t they?” deals you can include Lionel Messi from Barcelona to Manchester City and the ongoing interest from Manchester United in Borussia Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho, yet both have a better chance of getting over the line than Thiago signing on the dotted line at Anfield before the Premier League’s transfer deadline on Oct. 5.
All three potential transfers have sizeable obstacles to clear before they can be concluded, but while Thiago to Liverpool should be the most straightforward of them all, it is proving to be the one that is toughest to crack.
First of all, don’t make the mistake of believing that Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has no interest in adding Thiago to his title-winning squad. In normal circumstances, without clubs being hit hard by the financial impact of COVID-19, a £27m deal for a world-class, attacking midfielder, with the pedigree of playing for Bayern, Barcelona and Spain, would be a straightforward transfer. It doesn’t matter that, at 29, Thiago does not quite fit the profile of a Liverpool signing under Klopp.
Klopp wants to freshen up a squad that has added just two senior players — £7.25m forward Takumi Minamino and £11.75m left-back Kostas Tsimikas — since winning the Champions League in June 2019. The old adage of strengthening while at the top has largely been ignored at Anfield since Liverpool started off on their year-long trophy hunt by beating Tottenham in Madrid to win their sixth European Cup, and Saturday’s penalty shootout defeat against Arsenal in the Community Shield at Wembley exposed the need for new blood within Klopp’s squad.
The German knows he needs fresh faces to spice up competition for places and ensure that his players can see that the club is determined to build on recent success. But it is also a reality at Anfield that no major signings will arrive this summer until, or unless, a senior player leaves and therefore brings money in through a transfer fee or frees up space on the wage bill.
The financial constraints created by the pandemic saw Liverpool miss out on Timo Werner, who ultimately left RB Leipzig for Chelsea after Klopp admitted that the money was not there for the champions to complete a £47.7m deal for the Germany striker.
Liverpool are losing approximately £3m every time Anfield hosts a game behind closed doors and they, like every other Premier League club, must pay a rebate of around £20m to the league’s broadcasters due to the disruption caused by COVID-19. Before a ball has even been kicked in the 2020-21 season, Liverpool are already over £30m down in terms of money they had expected to earn. That figure will climb with every Anfield fixture that is played without paying spectators, which is why a deal for Thiago remains firmly on hold, despite the need for a player of his creative talents in Klopp’s squad.
Gab Marcotti explains the reasoning behind Manchester United’s interest in Liverpool target Thiago.
There is a key that can unlock the door, but it is in the hands of Georginio Wijnaldum, the Dutch midfielder who has been a pivotal figure in Liverpool’s glittering years. Wijnaldum played a central role in winning all of the Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, FIFA Club World Cup and Premier League trophies. But the 29-year-old is out of contract in June 2021 and no progress has been made on negotiating a new one. Sources have told ESPN that both club and player have a significant difference in their opinion on the terms of any new deal, but there’s no suggestion of a fall-out and Klopp wants Wijnaldum to stay at the club and risk losing him on a free transfer next summer if he must.
Barcelona are keen to sign the Dutchman, with new coach Ronald Koeman developing a huge admiration for his consistency and versatility during his time as Netherlands coach, but the player is in no rush to leave Anfield.
If Wijnaldum stays, Liverpool cannot, and will not, push forward in any attempt sign Thiago, who is also out of contract next summer and has refused to sign a new one with the Champions League winners. If Wijnaldum leaves, sources have told ESPN that Liverpool would then be likely to make a move for Thiago — if speculation linking him with Manchester United does not result in a move to Old Trafford prior to that.
United’s attention towards Thiago is understood to be nothing more than that of interested bystanders, with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer having priorities elsewhere, while there may be an element that their involvement is being overplayed by those aiming to nudge Liverpool into action. But as it stands now, with the new season less than two weeks away, it will need a first-team player to leave Liverpool before the club looks to sign Thiago. Wijnaldum is not pushing to leave and Liverpool are happy for him to stay, so it’s difficult see a breakthrough.
Results on the pitch are the one element that could change everything, however. If Liverpool make an unconvincing start to the defence of their title, a new signing may become a necessity. Of course by then, Messi may be tearing it up in a blue shirt at the Etihad and Sancho could be settling in at Old Trafford.