Advertisement

Alexis Mac Allister interview: How Liverpool’s ‘doctor’ fixed Jurgen Klopp’s midfield

Alexis Mac Allister interview: How Liverpool’s ‘doctor’ fixed Jurgen Klopp’s midfield

Alexis Mac Allister has a daily habit, one the vast majority of footballers past and present can only envy. It is a reminder that he won football’s ultimate prize. “I look at it every single day,” he said.

‘It’ being his World Cup winner’s medal.

As the Argentinian prepares for his first final since possibly the greatest World Cup final of them all, a cerebral footballer, the architect of many a move, is constructing an idea. “My plan is to one day create a little museum at home, a room where everything is there,” he said. “I have a replica of the World Cup, the medal and some more trophies – they are all in a safe place for now – and my plan is to be able to have a place for them where I can always see them.”

By the time Mac Allister is done, that museum may need to be quite large. “The World Cup helps me to realise that I really want to win more trophies,” he said. The Carabao Cup could provide the first of four medals from his debut season at Liverpool. He became the first Brighton player to win the World Cup but his last honour at club level was the 2020 Primera Division, when Albion loaned him to Boca Juniors. Now he is hungry for more.

Mac Allister won football’s greatest prize when he helped Argentina defeat France in Qatar (Getty)
Mac Allister won football’s greatest prize when he helped Argentina defeat France in Qatar (Getty)

If much of the focus in Doha 14 months ago understandably rested with another Argentinian No 10, with the global fixation on whether Lionel Messi could provide the culmination to his career by winning the prize that eluded him, Mac Allister’s was a very different romantic tale: that of the unexpected. He started the tournament outside the team, scored his first international goal in the group stages and won the World Cup at just 23 and in only his 14th cap.

Now, riddled with injuries, Liverpool could field some inexperienced players against Chelsea at Wembley. Mac Allister can testify that is not necessarily a problem. “You can see players who played a final for the first time and they do very well, like it was for me in the World Cup,” he said, too modest to mention that his evening brought an assist, with a cross for Angel Di Maria to double Argentina’s lead against France.

If reputations were elevated by Argentina’s progress, some of Messi’s supporting cast were propelled to greater prominence. Mac Allister was snapped up by Jurgen Klopp for a bargain £35m. “Liverpool was the only chance,” he said. Chelsea acquired two of his sidekicks, both at rather greater cost: first, his Argentina teammate Enzo Fernandez for £107m and, seven months later, his Brighton colleague Moises Caicedo for £115m.

Liverpool had bid £111m for the Ecuadorian, looking to reunite the Albion axis. Caicedo chose Chelsea. “Maybe he hurt me a little bit with what happened in the summer,” smiled Mac Allister. “But it is completely fine.”

Mac Allister and Caicedo both left Brighton in the summer and will face each other in the Carabao Cup final (Getty)
Mac Allister and Caicedo both left Brighton in the summer and will face each other in the Carabao Cup final (Getty)
Fernandez and Mac Allister both starred for Argentina in Qatar (Getty)
Fernandez and Mac Allister both starred for Argentina in Qatar (Getty)

Certainly, he has few reasons to regret his own decision. “It is crazy because since the first day here I really felt a connection that I have not felt at any other club,” he said. “Hopefully I will spend many years here.” He made an assured debut against Chelsea in August. While he was sent off on his Anfield bow, the red card was rescinded. He has been a cultured presence in the Liverpool midfield, often anchoring it, now back in his preferred role with a more attacking remit. He has an admirer in his manager; Klopp has called him “a football doctor”.

Mac Allister scored in last Saturday’s win at Brentford and contributed two assists in three minutes in the comeback against Luton on Wednesday. Perhaps his best performance in a Liverpool shirt, however, came against Chelsea, an imperious display in January’s 4-1 win. He overshadowed the £222m double act he knows all too well. “They have very good players with Enzo and Caicedo in the middle but we have got our players,” he said, contemplating a rematch.

He has enjoyed a different type of reunion this season. He faced his brother Kevin when Liverpool hosted Union Saint-Gilloise in October. Their older brother, Francis, plays for Rosario Central. With three sons to watch, their parents are rarely home alone. Silvina Mac Allister will be at Wembley on Sunday. “This time it is for my mum,” said Alexis. “Hopefully it will be a special day for her as well.”

Mac Allister was part of Liverpool’s midfield revolution and is now back in a preferred role (Getty)
Mac Allister was part of Liverpool’s midfield revolution and is now back in a preferred role (Getty)

Carlos Mac Allister is a more frequent sight at Liverpool matches, his experiences as an Argentina international and a former teammate of Diego Maradona informing his critique. “He always says something,” said Mac Allister. “Not always positive! But that helps me and my brothers a lot because I like it when a person is as honest as he is.”

If the family can share stories of Maradona and Messi, the younger generation hopes the museum he has in mind will take him back to his glory days at Wembley as well as in Qatar.