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The numbers only tell part of the story


The temptation is, of course, to link this trend to the growing interest in sport and its reliance on analysis – it’s football, as the nerds wanted it – or even the continued infiltration gambling by people who can only be described as Americans. This may, however, only offer a partial explanation.

Equally relevant, perhaps, is the game’s talking point culture, its ingrained tribalism and endless squabbles for supremacy, its hunger for virality, attention and influence. Cold, hard numbers carry more weight in 280 characters, after all, than obsolete 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, it was generally a handy stick to beat him with: his goals and assists, after all, gave little indication that he was a valuable part of Liverpool, let alone an outstanding performer .

Belatedly, in recent weeks, the dynamic has changed. Thiago had a 92% success rate in the FA Cup semi-final win over Manchester City. He played 129 passes in Manchester United’s latest humiliation, and 123 of them hit the mark.

A few days ago, he managed more assists against Everton than all his opponents combined. And then, against Villarreal, he had 119 touches, 103 passes played, 99 passes completed, 100% tackles won, five interceptions, nine long balls completed and a serious feedback session with a slightly reluctant Diogo Jota.

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