John Barnes believes Thiago Alcantara has received “unfair” criticism during his challenging first campaign with Liverpool.
But he has no doubts the midfielder will come good next season to stamp his mark as one of the “top performers” in the Premier League.
Thiago joined the Reds for an initial £20million last summer and saw his minutes limited after suffering a knee injury in last October’s Merseyside derby.
He has been singled out for criticism during a disastrous Liverpool season and Barnes is among those to previously take aim at the Spaniard.
But the Anfield hero has changed his tune on Thiago and now insists the 29-year-old will flourish during his second season on Merseyside.
“I can sympathise with Thiago this season and how it has gone for him,” former England winger Barnes told BonusCodeBets .
“Playing with no crowds can be tough for any player, especially one who has only been playing in England for less than a year.
“He’s joined a team who were playing well, compact and the best team in the Premier League.
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“Then suddenly because of the injury situation, he’s now come into a team who are not playing well, as well as getting unfair criticism.
“The way that he plays with the team we currently have, things just aren’t working at Anfield and I do really feel for him as he is a top player.
“Thiago may feel that he needs the crowd for inspiration and to perform better.
“When the crowds come back, we may start to see better results for Liverpool, but I’ve no doubt he’ll be one of the top performers next season.”
Although Thiago is yet to register a goal or an assist for Liverpool, he has shown signs of improvement since Fabinho returned to midfield to lessen the number of defensive duties demanded of him.
He is sure to play an important role in the run-in, with the Reds facing crunch trips to Arsenal and Real Madrid in their next two fixtures.
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