Thiago hits prime at right time: Neil Humphreys
Amid links with Barca, classy Spanish midfielder underlines his value to Reds
Hobson's choice is a term used to describe an illusion of options. In theory, there are choices. In reality, there is only one thing on offer.
Currently, this is also known as Thiago Alcantara's choice. In theory, he has the option of staying at Liverpool or returning to Barcelona. In reality, he's not going anywhere.
Earlier this week, the elegant Spaniard had to deny rumours of a move to Xavi's Catalans. Cynics were not convinced. So Alcantara persuaded them with an act of sorcery.
That wasn't a goal in the 2-0 Champions League win over Porto yesterday morning (Singapore time). That was every prepubescent dream realised. That was a strike in the mind's eye of every five-a-side player as he aimed for the bottom corner, only to watch the ball clear the goal, pitch and postcode.
That wasn't a goal. That was the re-emergence of a forgotten talent.
As Juergen Klopp explained, no one in the Reds' camp was surprised at the "thunderball". Alcantara does this stuff in training every day, caressing a dropping ball like two lovers kissing for the first time and guiding a breathtaking shot into the far corner.
But the 30-year-old hadn't been doing this stuff in front of paying punters. His strike was only his second for the Reds since joining from Bayern Munich 14 months ago. A two-time Champions League winner and full-time Rolls-Royce was expected to purr.
Instead, he spluttered.
A pandemic, empty stadiums and a collective loss of form hardly helped a slightly bewildered footballer struggling with his own illness and injury issues.
Neither party kept their side of the bargain. Alcantara thought he was joining voracious trophy hoarders. The Reds thought they'd signed a gilded piece in a near-perfect puzzle.
It didn't play out that way. The natives grew restless and rumours of a Barcelona return persisted. But Klopp always knew what he had. He had an alternative. An out ball, a cool head and an opportunity to take stock, in real time, when the gegenpressing wasn't working, and find another route to goal.
Alcantara and Liverpool were always going to come together eventually and they did - in the 4-0 win over Arsenal.
Last weekend, the Gunners pressed high and defended deep. For an artist of Alcantara's calibre, only a red carpet was missing.
His passing range steered Liverpool out of trouble and into their opponents' box. He drifted forward to exploit space and harried the Gunners at the other, much to Klopp's delight. It was a masterclass of midfield control.
For Alcantara, the Arsenal game looked like a statement of intent. His Porto display felt like a confirmation. The goal was an extravagant underlining of the bleeding obvious.
He's a class above again, gliding through games, spaces and opponents as if he's broken the matrix and everyone else is operating in slow motion.
It is not a coincidence that Fabinho enjoyed one of his most dominant performances against Arsenal any more than it's a surprise that 19-year-old Tyler Morton displayed astonishing maturity in the same central midfield position against Porto.
In both instances, they kept impeccable company. Alcantara was alongside them.
Finally, Klopp has the luxury item that he knew he was signing from Bayern, allowing the boss to rotate players and styles as the hectic December schedule approaches.
Whatever the front three, whatever the midfield trio, Alcantara can usually stitch the lot together. And if he really can't, he'll find the bottom corner instead, just to hammer home the symbolism.
He's back. And he's not leaving. Why would he?
The Reds are getting back to their best. Barca are an incoherent rabble looking to past heroes to salvage a messy present.
There's no need for Alcantara to take a backward step at the Nou Camp when he's now putting his best foot forward at Anfield.