Thiago Alcantara is thought to be one of the best young players. A few months ago, he was known by few, but since he captained the Spain U21 side to European success, everyone knows the name of Thiago Alcantara.
Although Thiago is a Spanish international, he was born in Italy, son to 1994 Brazilian World Cup winner Marzinho. Growing up watching his dad winning World Cups, he learned the footballing trade easily, and at the early age of five, Alcantara was signed up by the lower levels of Flamengo.
He spent a year developing his natural football talents in Italy, before he and his father moved to Spain, where he played with Ureca. He was at the Galician club for 4 years, before Kelme CF snapped him up as his father played for Elche CF. After 5 years in Spain, Thiago moved back to Flamengo aged 10. A second time at the club - stretching to four years - got the attention of the mighty Barcelona, and soon the 14-year-old was a member of the famous La Masia.
Thiago developed massively at La Masia for his first few years before being called up to the Barcelona B team in the 2008/09 season and making 25 appearances. Following that season, he made another 34 appearances in 2 seasons, netting three times. Pep Guardiola was impressed by the player he’d once coached in the Barcelona B team and gave Alcantara his first senior appearance. On 17 May 2009, he replaced Eidur Gudjohnsen in a 2-1 loss away against Mallorca. By this point, Thiago had been labelled as one to look out for. Yet he had to wait for a solid season.
When the 2010-11 season had come to a close, Pep Guardiola had named Thiago in his match day squad 23 times in the Liga BBVA. He’d scored his first senior goal in a 4-0 thrashing of Racing de Santander and started six games for the La Liga Champions as a 20 year old.
Should Thiago not have been named in the match day squad so many times in that 2010-11 season, I don’t think he’d be the player he is today. Pep Guardiola often showed faith in the young players from La Masia in his time at Barcelona. Now, he’s gone, and although we all thought he had no impact on this seasons league win, I’ve realized more than ever how important he was.
The classic case of Guardiola and Barcelona is Lionel Messi. He had the natural talent, and Guardiola not only spotted that, but then believed in him and was willing to risk his job to play the Argentinian as an 18-year-old. It’s the same case with Thiago now. He was given a huge confidence boost being named in the match day squad, and even starting on six occasions. Now, you look at him, and he’s one of the most eagerly anticipated prospects in the world.
As I looked to increase my knowledge on the upcoming stars in the footballing world, I watched the U-21 European Championships this summer. So, when I heard the rumors of Thiago making the switch to Manchester United, I looked out for him in particular.
What I thought after seeing a few matches in which he played in was that he was stylish. If he was walking around the streets of London, he’d be the guy with “swag,” but he’s not. He’s on the football pitch. He knows where and when he’s going to pass each ball, he has the stamina of a young puppy, and he’s one of the best young players in the world.
As with all Barcelona players of the current day and age, he pushes as far forward as possible and can do this all match after being installed with the Barcelona DNA at La Masia. Although Barcelona are one the best teams in the world, and they have one of the strongest sides, Thiago stands out like a beacon. He plays just in front of the defensive midfielder at Barcelona and adapts his role to wherever need be in midfield playing for his national side at every level.
There were a few things I instantly noticed about Thiago’s style of play. There are the one’s that the stats show, like the accuracy of his passing (93%). However, he adds a lot more to the game than that. He is a composed midfielder, who isn’t scared of receiving the ball like many players who have come through La Masia. He can control the ball with such ease, it’s brilliant to watch. His calmness on the ball is much like Xavi and Iniesta. However, he is very different to the two midfield maestros.
Xavi and Iniesta have been two of the best players in the world for years now. However, although the two World Cup winners will forever be known as two of the greatest, they lack the thing Thiago has: the unexpected genius.
If you get the chance to watch Barcelona or Spain in the next few weeks, look out for Thiago. Look for the passes that you don’t often see. The ambitious ones. The delicate chip over the defenders head to Messi or Torres. The little flick on and then the quick run forward to take the ball once again, never losing concentration.
As football fans, what excites us is the goals, and Thiago isn’t just the silent midfielder making the sly pass for someone else to score. When he hasn’t got possession of the ball, he’s making the run into the box waiting to pounce. In the final of the U21 European Championships, he scored a header, a left corner, and then a right corner; it doesn’t get much better than that.
The end of the season has passed, and it wouldn’t be a footballing summer without all of the world’s top players, young and old, being linked with all the top clubs in the world. It’s been Thiago’s turn this year with the Spaniard being heavily linked with English Champions Manchester United. Alcantara has a release clause of around £15 million until July 31, and should United activate it, it will be down to him.
Thiago and the Red Devils’ keeper, David De Gea, are close friends and that could come useful in United’s bid for the 22-year-old. Thiago has been told he will not get increased game time next season as he asked for, and Barcelona look like they have given up in their attempts to keep him at the club.
Many different journalists and papers from various countries have reported many different stories and it looks like the Spaniard is set for a move to Old Trafford. All we know is this boy is good. This boy, can do anything.
Written by Harry Robinson