Pep Lijnders has revealed how Thiago nearly missed Liverpool’s Champions League final against Real Madrid because he couldn’t feel his toes after having a pain-killing injection.
The Spanish midfielder had been a major doubt for May’s final in Paris after limping off against Wolves with an Achilles problem six days earlier.
Thiago, 31, was passed fit to play but uncertainty reigned before the game when he was pictured doing his own warm-up with staff away from Jurgen Klopp’s other starters.
At one stage, he was consoled by Klopp and was deep in discussion with Naby Keita, who looked set to take his place. Ultimately, the decision was taken that Thiago would start and he lasted 77 minutes in the 1-0 defeat.
In Lijnders’ new book ‘Intensity’, a diary of a remarkable 2021-22 season, which is published today, he details what happened before the final.
“Thiago didn’t do the warm-up as he couldn’t feel his toes after his latest injection,” says Lijnders.
“He told me just before going out and he said, ‘make sure Naby is ready’. I will tell you one thing: these are the things a coach doesn’t want to hear just before a final. The problem was that if he would not start he couldn’t be on the bench.
“We were in doubt and only after the fast-feet work we decided to trust him that he felt he could play; he was experienced enough to make this call. Naby was insane dealing with this whole situation, I have to say – credit to him.”
Lijnders also details the scene of devastation in the Liverpool dressing room and the sense of anger at UEFA for the lack of organisation before and after a final which was delayed by 36 minutes.
“It was deadly quiet. Some (players) were in tears, some were just with complete frustration and most of us with disillusion.
“Jurgen spoke: ‘I know you’re not feeling proud of yourself now, but with time you have to. Don’t forget that winning two cups is a good season, it can’t be that because of our own success we see this as a failure.’
“We decided to go ahead with our post-match party in a venue on the Champs-Elysees. All our families were there. A proper Liverpool party. A few times I did wonder how it would have looked if we had won.
“UEFA, by the way, didn’t warn us about the delays. It was only after we’d finished our warm-up we found out. Can you imagine that, before a Champions League final?
“But more important than this was the terrible treatment of our supporters outside, trying to get in to watch the game. A complete failure by the authorities, UEFA and the police.
“Treating football fans like it was a riot. We couldn’t believe what we saw and heard when we later received the images, videos and stories from those caught up in it. That included family members of my own who told me they cried – firstly in fear when outside and later in sheer relief once they made it in.
“They told me the only ones who were calm were the Liverpool supporters. Sorry to say, UEFA has to do better.”
(Photo: Getty Images)