Thiago and Stefan Bajčetić have unlikely Liverpool history as Jürgen Klopp renews midfield link.
Liverpool and Jürgen Klopp have unearthed something rather special by partnering Thiago with young Stefan Bajčetić. A passing of the torch could follow.
Liverpool’s League Cup clash against Manchester City was an especially significant moment for Stefan Bajčetić. While Jürgen Klopp had already handed the youngster his debut off the bench against Bournemouth in a 9-0 win, and given him his full debut in the previous round of the cup, this was his maiden start in what was otherwise close to a full-strength team.
With Fabinho not yet deemed ready to start after the World Cup, Klopp gave a vote of faith to his young defensive midfielder, eschewing more senior options to hand Bajčetić the number six berth. He lined up in the Liverpool midfield alongside Thiago Alcântara.
It was not the greatest of games for Bajčetić, who understandably felt the pace against arguably the best side in the world. But while the 18-year-old was withdrawn at half-time, he held his own in testing circumstances. When Fabinho did come on, he did not fare much better.
There were even signs of a budding partnership with Thiago. The Spaniard offers more defensive protection than most of his peers in the Liverpool team, and the duo at times looked a bit like a double pivot, with Harvey Elliott ahead of them. Whether Klopp knew it or not, this created an astonishing piece of football trivia.
The duo would play and start together for the first time against Athletic Bilbao, in a 2-2 draw. The only point earned in the middle of a brutal five-game run, it would have to go down as something of a success, although Bajčetić did pick up a booking before being withdrawn at half time — exactly as his son did against Manchester City, 9477 days later.
Srđan Bajčetić came off the bench to restore the partnership against Real Madrid two games later, looking to turn the tide after goals from Roberto Carlos and Fernando Redondo had put the hosts two in front. It was to no avail — Raúl and Davor Šuker got on the score sheet to complete a 4-0 mauling by a roll-call of La Liga legends.
Remarkably, Celta Vigo would reverse that scoreline in the final game of the campaign, with Real Madrid already having been crowned as champions. But that was a rare high point in a season that saw them finish just four points clear of the relegation playoffs. Mazinho would go on to spearhead UEFA Cup qualifying places in each of the next two seasons, but Bajčetić left, seemingly marking the end of the partnership.
Neither can have expected that the dynasty would live on a generation later, restored at the heart of the Liverpool midfield. And yet this brief crossover in Vigo laid the foundations for it to happen: it was Srđan’s spell in Spain that meant his son went into Celta’s academy, which is where Klopp signed him from in 2020.
Time will tell whether the Thiago and Bajčetić pairing blossoms. These are two players at the opposite ends of their careers, so it will probably be a similarly fleeting partnership to the one that came before. Even so, it’s a golden piece of trivia — and if the son of Mazinho can pass the torch to the son of Srđan, then Liverpool will have produced a genuinely touching moment, as well as equipping Klopp with an elite young midfielder.