The temptation is, of course, to link this trend to the growing interest and addiction of sport to analysis – this is football, as nerds wanted it – or even to the continued infiltration of the game by people who can only be described. like Americans. This, however, can only offer a partial explanation.
Equally relevant, perhaps, is the game’s talking point culture, its ingrained tribalism and endless brawl for supremacy, its thirst for virality, attention and influence. Cold and hard numbers carry more weight in 280 characters, after all, than outdated concepts like metaphor or allusion.
Whatever the cause, few have been reduced to a succession of numbers as much as Thiago. In his first season and a half in England, he was generally a cheap club to beat him with – his goals and assists, after all, hardly indicated that he was a valued member of Liverpool, let alone an exceptional player.
Duly, in the last few weeks, the dynamic has changed. Thiago had a 92% pass completion rate in the FA Cup semi-final win against Manchester City. He played 129 passes in Manchester United’s most recent humiliation and 123 of them found their intended goal.
A few days ago, he made more successful passes against Everton than all his opponents combined. And then, against Villarreal, he scored 119 touches, 103 passes played, 99 passes completed, 100 percent tackles won, five interceptions, nine long balls completed and a serious feedback session with a slightly reluctant Diogo Jota.