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Bayern Alumni: Thiago Alcantara explains how he’s adapted to Liverpool’s style of play

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Bayern Munich and Liverpool are two entirely different beasts and Thiago has had to adapt to life under Jurgen Klopp.

Liverpool Training Session Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

In a recent interview with Spanish outlet AS, Thiago Alcantara talked about the ways he’s had to adapt his style of play at Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp since joining from Bayern Munich during the summer transfer window. The early stages of his Liverpool tenure thus far was unfortunately hampered by injury as well as having to recover from the coronavirus, but injuries to key players in Liverpool’s squad (Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, Joel Matip) hasn’t made adjusting to a different system any easier for the Spanish international.

Klopp’s side is known for its blistering gegenpressing, transitional play, and what many have referred to as “heavy metal football.” Without delving too much into specific tactics at Liverpool, Thiago said there’s definitely a difference in the way they approach games in the Premier League — different than Bayern in the Bundesliga or Barcelona in La Liga.

“At the end of the day, what we all want is to play winning football. I’ve been lucky enough to play for two clubs, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, who have played winning football throughout their histories, and now I’m at a club in Liverpool that also has that winning DNA. [The Premier League] is a different league and that obviously leads to a difference in the way we want to play as a team; the way we approach games is different to Bayern, just as they way we approached games at Bayern was different to Barcelona. It’s a period of evolution, of learning. It’s about developing into a better player year on year, if possible,” Thiago explained.

Work off the ball is just as, if not more, important than work on the ball and in the Premier League, where the ball is in play longer than other leagues, that tactical movements and technical speed are vital. A lot of Liverpool’s play centers around the pace of the front three in Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, and Roberto Firmino, which is something Thiago said has been an adjustment.

“Right now we have really quick guys up top who are really useful when you play balls in behind the opposition defense, but who also give you a lot when you play it to them into feet. You have the option of playing two different types of pass. In the Premier League, the time the ball is in play is greater than in other competitions. And the individual battles are different; in the Premier League, you’re constantly in an individual battle and that’s a difference between England and other leagues,” said Thiago.

Liverpool Training Session Photo by John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Thiago also said that there were options on the table to potentially return to La Liga after lifer at Bayern. However, he said his desire to experience the Premier League was the overriding factor in the end that made him decide to join Liverpool.

“It [La Liga] was a possibility, but at the end of the day I felt that if I left Bayern it had to be to experience the Premier League, a really competitive league. When I got the call from the coach and the club, it was a really easy decision to make. It was a tough decision to leave Bayern, though. In the end it happened and I’m really happy,” Thiago remarked.

Looking forward, Thiago said that the reaction within Liverpool to drawing Real Madrid for the Champions League quarterfinals was nothing but respect. Of course, there are unspoken undertones to this matchup for Sergio Ramos’s challenge on Salah in the 2018 final in Kiev that forced Salah to go off with a shoulder injury.

“Our reaction was that we have complete respect for Real Madrid, the respect that Champions League quarterfinal opponents are obviously due. And we can’t wait for the games to come. It’s a wonderful competition and a tie against a fantastic side. We’ll go into it with the respect for Madrid that they deserve,” Thiago said.