The signing of Thiago Alcântara has been a first in modern Liverpool history: a player who arrived world class rather than forging that reputation at the club. Like Virgil Van Dijk before him, the ex-Bayern Munich man barely needed a training session with his new teammates before effortlessly demonstrating his quality in a 45-minute cameo against Chelsea a mere 48 hours removed from joining the club.
Just notable as the midfield maestro’s abilities off the pitch is his character off it, a factor of outsized importance for any player Jürgen Klopp has signed in his time at Anfield. Well-liked by supporters and in locker rooms of the superclubs he has played for in Barcelona and Bayern, the 29-year-old is well aware of the need to respect tradition.
In a delightful signing day video, the Spanish international was shown touring the Reds’ stadium and encountering the famous This Is Anfield sign for the first time. The placard, which has hung above the entrance to the pitch in one form or another for nearly half a century, was placed there in Bill Shankly’s reign to “remind our lads who they’re playing for and to remind the opposition who they’re playing against.” Liverpool players throughout the years have traditionally touched their hands to the sign on their way into the stadium, a practice halted by Klopp until the Reds won their first trophy, the 2018-19 European Cup.
Similarly, Thiago revealed in the video that he is already well-versed in the customs of England’s most storied club, and has chosen to show his respect for Anfield tradition by following Klopp’s lead, taking the advice he received from another Liverpool great:
“As I heard once from Fernando Torres, this remains ever the place we pass by, for four more years [in my case],” the midfielder said upon viewing the sign.
“And to touch this symbol we have to deserve it and to win as many trophies as we can.
“That’s why today I will not. I will respect this tradition.”
It is difficult to imagine a better fit between club and player. With players like Thiago in the squad, the smart money would be on him not having to wait for long before he is touching the sign every glorious Anfield matchday.