At the back end of last season, Curtis Jones enjoyed his longest-ever run of starts in a Liverpool shirt. Between the stalemate at Chelsea in early April and the 4-4 draw away to Southampton on the final day in late May, Jones made the line-up for 11 consecutive matches.

As always when a player breaks into the side, though, somebody had to make way, and Jones' career-best run of form came partly at the expense of Thiago. The Spaniard was available for four matches between his return from a hip injury and season-ending surgery to put the issue to bed, but Jürgen Klopp benched him in favor of Jones for each one.

There's a possibility, of course, that this was an effort to manage the Spaniard as he dealt with ongoing discomfort (via The Athletic), and that the underlying problem prevented him from fully making a starting case in training.

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But right now, it's still pretty hard to see Jones falling back behind him in the pecking order as he continues to flourish, having carried his momentum into England's successful under-21 Euros campaign. Liverpool is poised to look to the future with Jones rather than the soon-to-be past with Thiago, whose contract expires in 12 months' time.

New summer signing Alexis Mac Allister is expected to start the majority of games as Liverpool's left-sided number eight, and so Thiago could conceivably be third-choice behind the Argentine and Jones.

While he can also play as a defensive midfielder, he won't be the primary option in that position either, with Liverpool sure to bring in another specialist.

It feels as if he's one of the victims of Klopp's system change, having been ideally suited to the less advanced left center midfield role in the earlier set-up.

All in all, assuming that he stays and is not sold, it's a safe bet that Thiago will start the lowest proportion of games for which he's available of his Liverpool career (it remains to be seen how many that will be given his injury record).

Liverpool midfielder Thiago will be more important than ever this year
Liverpool midfielder Thiago will be more important than ever this year

And yet, his importance to the squad might well be greater than ever. With Jordan Henderson and Fabinho both on their way to Saudi Arabia, every other Liverpool midfielder is aged 24 or under, with an average age of 21.2 between them.

Thirty-two-year-old Thiago is vastly more experienced, having been an established first-team player for the past 12 seasons now, but more than the volume of football, it's the history of winning that matters.

He's the only player among Liverpool's remaining midfielders who's played a truly significant role in winning one of Europe's big five leagues — he lifted the Bundesliga seven times with Bayern Munich and La Liga four times with Barcelona — and in winning a European competition (the 19/20 Champions League with Bayern).

The obvious counterpoint here is that Mac Allister has landed a World Cup with Argentina, but the season-long grind of the club game is very different to a month-long international tournament, and that's where Thiago is invaluable.

With the captain (Jordan Henderson) and vice-captain (James Milner) both moving on, the kind of leadership the veteran showed in mentoring compatriot Stefan Bajčetić last season — Klopp said he 'took him under his wing' (via Mirror) — is bound to come to the fore too.

As a footballer, Thiago's value will probably diminish this season, with the Reds recognizing that they can't depend on a player whose body so often lets him down, but his stabilizing, assured presence could well be more important than ever.

That's why Liverpool should keep and let him run down his contract before a likely exit, rather than cashing in while it still can.