Jurgen Klopp has “no problem” with the fitness issues Thiago Alcantara has suffered since joining Liverpool, but the Reds boss admits the Spain international remains something of an unknown quantity.
The reigning Premier League champions lured the proven performer to Anfield in the summer of 2020. Thiago, fresh from a treble triumph at Bayern Munich that ended with Champions League glory, was snapped up in a bargain £20 million ($26m) transfer.
He was expected to slot seamlessly into the fold on Merseyside, and an eye-catching outing off the bench on debut at Chelsea hinted at better things to come, but a bout of Covid-19 and niggling knocks have restricted the 29-year-old to just three appearances.
The most recent of those saw him given 17 minutes in the 0-0 draw at Newcastle, with the hope being that he is ready to kick on.
Klopp believes there is a lot more to come from Thiago, but he is not overly concerned that the former Barcelona star is still waiting to deliver on expectation.
The Reds boss told reporters heading into the meeting with Southampton on Monday: “Unfortunately, I don’t know him that long. A few months only.
“That he could play 20 [minutes against Newcastle ] is pretty special, I would say, because [he had] only two sessions with the team - one of the sessions he was the joker, so I’m not sure you can count that really - but this game [at Newcastle] gave us the opportunity to do it because it was mainly about creating and that’s obviously his best skill.
“So we will see. There’s a chance. He played 20 [minutes] so there’s a chance, but I don’t even know how he reacts, we will see if he can get out of bed or not! Or if he has kind of muscle soreness or something like that. He enjoyed the few minutes obviously and then we will talk new.
“How I said, I like speaking about Thiago, it’s absolutely no problem, but honestly the boys who did the job so far did exceptionally well, I have to say. It’s not that we could not survive if he cannot start the next game, but it’s very good that he is now fit and is obviously in contention. I like that a lot.”
Liverpool will face the Saints knowing that their lead at the top of the Premier League table has disappeared, with Manchester United now level on points with Klopp’s side while Leicester sit just off the pace.