London: Jurgen Klopp hailed Thiago Alcantara as one of the few players in the world that can improve Liverpool after the Spaniard joined from Bayern Munich ahead of Sunday’s major Premier League clash with Frank Lampard’s new-look Chelsea.
Widely regarded as one of the world’s best midfielders, Thiago won seven Bundesliga titles in seven years at Bayern and was instrumental as they lifted the Champions League last month in his last game for the club.
However, with just one year left on his contract, it only cost Liverpool 20 million pounds plus 5 million pounds in add-ons to secure his signature.
The 29-year-old becomes Liverpool’s first major signing for two years, in which time they have won the Champions League and a first English league title for 30 years.
“He is an absolutely exceptional player and you are right it is difficult to improve a team like us in the moment in a normal way,” said Klopp.
“If we take 300-400 million maybe we could find some players but even then it is not easy. In this specific case it is a player who brings a different dimension in our game, that’s true.
“Some skills which in general are pretty rare but they suit us pretty well. It says nothing about the other players it is only different and that is what I was really interested in.”
Chelsea manager Lampard, meanwhile, insists he has “huge respect” for Klopp despite his stormy relationship with the Liverpool boss.
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Lampard launched an expletive-laced touchline tirade at Klopp and his assistant Pep Lijnders as tempers rose during Chelsea’s 5-3 loss at Liverpool last season.
He followed that blast by warning Klopp not to get “too arrogant” and the feud has continued into the new campaign, with Liverpool’s Premier League visit to Chelsea on Sunday serving as another potential flashpoint in the growing rivalry.
Klopp took a swipe at Lampard’s 200 million pound close-season spending spree — which included Chelsea beating Liverpool to the signature of Germany forward Timo Werner.
He said his club could not act in the same way as those owned by oligarchs, in a reference to Blues supremo Roman Abramovich.
Lampard responded by saying it was “slightly amusing” to see Klopp complain about Chelsea’s transfer investments when Liverpool had spent heavily in the past.
But Klopp was diplomatic about their relationship this week, insisting he admired Lampard as a player and was impressed with his managerial work.
Lampard was also keen to draw a line under the row when he spoke to the media ahead of Chelsea’s clash with the Premier League champions, saying he had huge respect for his rival.
“What he has done in his time at Liverpool has been incredible and that is on him as the focal point of the club and the individual talent they have brought in,” the Chelsea boss said.
“The nature of the world we live in is there’s a lot of airtime for you to fill with rivalries. They can be scrutinised in every way.
“There is nothing in it for me. The competitive nature of the 90 minutes can always slightly boil over in different directions. The respect I have for Jurgen Klopp will never change.”
After finishing 33 points behind Liverpool, Lampard’s spending has raised expectations that Chelsea will mount a serious title challenge this term.
Despite Lampard’s protestations, beating Liverpool in their second game of the season would clearly lay down a title marker for Chelsea, who opened the campaign with a 3-1 win at Brighton on Monday.
“I don’t feel it’s a game to make a statement, it’s the second game of the season,” Lampard said. “On Monday we were in preseason zone in terms of fitness. Now we take on the best team in the country last season.
“It’s a nice challenge. We did pretty well head-to-head with them last year. It’s a challenge to get three points against top opposition.”
Lampard confirmed Christian Pulisic, Thiago Silva, Ben Chilwell and Hakim Ziyech were unavailable to face Liverpool due to fitness issues, but Werner is ready after suffering a dead leg against Brighton.
Everton v West Bromwich Albion, 3.30pm
Leeds United v Fulham, 6pm
Manchester United v Crystal Palace, 8.30pm
Arsenal v West Ham United, 11pm
Southampton v Tottenham, 3pm
Newcastle United v Brighton, 5pm
Chelsea v Liverpool, 7.30pm
Leicester City v Burnley, 10pm
Aston Villa v Sheffield United, 9pm
Wolves v Manchester City, 11.15pm