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Manchester United hero Rio Ferdinand says he ‘loves’ Liverpool midfielder Thiago Alcantara, who Michael Owen says is “the most unique player in the Premier League”. Thiago has caused debate of late having struggled to fully adjust to playing in Jurgen Klopp’s out-of-sorts team.
The Reds thought they had landed a significant coup when Thiago signed from European champions Bayern Munich for an initial £20million rising to £25m.
Thiago started brilliantly at the Premier League and shone in a 45-minute cameo on his debut at Chelsea before an impressive 90-minute display in a Merseyside derby draw at Everton.
Those were the Spain international’s only two appearances in the Premier League between September 20 and December 30, but he has now played in all of Liverpool’s last nine league games.
Reigning English champions Liverpool have however only won twice in that spell, losing five times with Klopp admitting after last weekend’s defeat at Leicester that his side are out of the title race given they trail Manchester City by 13 points having played a game more.
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With former Barcelona midfielder Thiago’s form having been disappointing of late, questions have been asked as to whether he really suits Liverpool’s style of play.
But former Reds striker Owen insists the player is suffering from not having the likes of Fabinho and Jordan Henderson alongside him in midfield due to the club’s defensive injury crisis.
Former United centre-back Ferdinand meanwhile rates the 29-year-old highly and similarly reckons he must not be judged until Liverpool are back to full health and full confidence.
Speaking on BT Sport ahead of Liverpool’s Champions League last 16 first leg with RB Leipzig, Owen said of Thiago: “He’s coming into to a team who aren’t on the top of their game at the moment so it’s hard to make a judgement.
“We were discussing earlier, as a player we can appreciate him. He can do things… in fact he’s the most unique player in the Premier League. There’s nobody like him.
“The closest is probably Paul Scholes – the way he gives the eyes. But when you look at him, does he assist many? Not really, all his good passes are from a deep position.
“Does he stop goals? We’ve seen on the clips not a great deal. However we all know he’s brilliant. He pulls on your heartstrings it’s very difficult.
“I want to judge him when the team are back playing the best they can. It’s been a difficult start for him.”
Ferdinand then chimed in to profess: “I love him. I think he’s a great player. He might not necessarily play that final pass, the pre-assist. He’s the one that plays that ball to get somebody in.
“They [Bayern Munich] played that pressing game. One of the best pressing teams in Europe last season. Undoubtedly. And he was a part of that, done it superbly.
“Like Mo [Owen] just said there he’s come into a team dismantled by injuries.
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“I think he’s a player who can play various roles in that midfield. He did it at Bayern easily. You can do that in a team that’s full of confidence, when your main players are playing week-in, week-out. He has not been afforded that.”
Speaking two weeks ago, Klopp admitted it has not be the ideal bedding-in period for Thiago at Anfield in response to claims from Gary Neville that Liverpool have “lost their punch” with the player in midfield.
“The situation is far from perfect, injured, ill, but not too important any more,” the German coach said. “We and he had to learn how to play without changing everything.
“He was 6 at Bayern but we decided to adapt his position a bit. Worked out well. Stability, we can use his skills.”
While Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson said more recently: “Thiago has been brilliant since he came to the club. Everybody knows how good a player he is, he is a world-class player.
“Even off the field, he is a really good person, leads by example and gives everything. You learn a lot from him. He has been a fantastic addition to the squad.
“He will probably know Leipzig better than anyone and I am sure he will tell us one or two things over the next 24 hours.
“He has settled in really well, like I knew he would. He is a phenomenal player.
“Hopefully he can keep improving each time he plays for us and getting used to the way that we play as a team.”
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