Tuesday , August 16 2022

Liverpool already know that January’s return could change season – Paul Gorst


There have been two contrasting stories for Liverpool’s marquee signatures so far.

On one hand, Diogo Jota has started life in Anfield as a man in his possession.

The versatile forward is second behind only Mohamed Salah in the goal-scoring poles, with his nine strikes already firing the Reds to crucial Premier League and Champions League victories.

The former Wolverhampton Wanderers star has seamlessly transformed into a Liverpool team, handling the intense and often overwhelming expectations with the least fuss.

Within three months of his career on Merseyside, the £ 45 million man has lit the bonfire for the debate on what constitutes Jurgen Klopp’s best attack.

Given the scale of that task before it arrives in mid-September, that is quite an achievement.

Now an entirely new Portuguese international with three goals in his eight caps so far, this week’s frontman has been talking about learning from none other than the great Cristiano Ronaldo.

“As Portuguese guys, we always looked at it as our main reference,” Jota said of Portuguese icon Ronaldo.

That cannot be beneficial going forward as he continues to learn his trade at the elite level.

This week’s visit from his former Wolves club provides him with an ideal opportunity to write another exciting page into what has been a moving opening chapter in his Liverpool story.

Having turned 24 on Friday, Jota is now entering the stage of his career where potential can be realized.

As they are just a few months into a five-year contract, Reds fans will be able to witness his golden season as they prepare to return to Anfield for the first time in nine months on Sunday.

On the other hand, Thiago Alcantara remains stuck in the traps with no sign of being released until New Year at the earliest.

It is perhaps not hyperbole to say that the two-time Champions League winner has arrived as one of the biggest name players to ever join Liverpool.

The club’s long-standing culture of creating stars rather than signing them meant that the former Bayern Munich and Barcelona midfielder could claim such a claim.

Certainly in the Premier League era, at least.

But despite his dominant class, the Spanish international player remains on the ground, unable to make a stunning contribution in his new days.

The final whistle in Brighton last Saturday also resulted in a quiet humiliation for Thiago.

His 135 minutes played so far mean he rests at the foot of the table for Liverpool’s entire field squad.

That people like Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips stand ahead of the 29-year-old on that list nearly three months after he signed tells you much about how strange this campaign has been for Klopp and his players .

Thiago has all sat out of 14 games during his two and a half months as a Liverpool player.

Matches against Lincoln City and Arsenal in the Carabao Cup that he would have lost had he been completely fit anyway, but he still paints a flawless picture.

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In fairness, there was not much that Thiago could do to avoid the dangerous, knee-high lung from Richarlison that has been left on the shelf since October 17.

And even less could he do to steer clear of a diagnosis of coronavirus in advance of the now famous 7-2 loss to Aston Villa at the start of that same month.

The midfielder completed the game at Goodison Park but has not been seen since with Klopp recently revealing he will not return until 2021.

“The problem is in a situation like that, nothing gets ripped and nothing is broken and that makes everyone think ‘okay, you can go after a few days’, but the effect was on the leg is so big that it’s still not right, “Klopp said.

And while any team would benefit from having Thiago’s gifts on hand, it wouldn’t be unfair to say that Liverpool haven’t lost it.

They simply haven’t had him in the team long enough to feel the brunt of his absence.

Which brings us to how things might shape when it eventually returns at the turn of the year.

Liverpool star Mohamed Salah

Stay tuned for all the latest injuries and Liverpool team news as Klopp faces a selection dilemma, along with breaking news and a breakdown of what’s next for the Reds.

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Liverpool have, somehow, continued to weigh on the strength of their character as they negotiate an overwhelming injury list that would have deceived most other clubs.

At one point or another, Klopp has been unable to call on almost everyone in his squad, except Andy Robertson and Guinea Wijnaldum.

The list of absentees is currently nine going to Wolves’ visit this weekend, even if Klopp might be hopeful that one or two will give the green light at Friday night’s training session.

As the Reds continue to wander through the injured mineral field with their fingers crossed, a fully fitted Thiago could be the perfect boost as they enter the second half of the season.

Like a new signing? Maybe not, but a huge injection of quality into a team that is already bursting with it.

Klopp’s latest update has speculated on where and when we might see Thiago next. For the time being, at least.

Now the challenge for the player is to get himself back to 100 percent as fast as possible.

He will still have a sizable voice on what happens as Liverpool goes after honors.

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