Thiago Alcantara scouting report: Manchester United’s transfer target is the focal point of a team
Thiago Alcantara has never been one to wait around.
He joined La Masia, Barcelona’s famed academy, at 14-years-old and from his first touch of the ball he began to draw attention.
At 16-years-old he’d debuted with the Barcelona ‘B’ side, albeit only for 120 minutes, but acquitted himself well.
Then at 18 he made the senior side under Pep Guardiola. Within a year he was getting regular run-outs with the first team, while still handling ‘B’ side duties.
Thiago’s career has always been on an upwards trajectory, his natural talent leading the way, with maturity and effort all in tow.
It was strange then for Thiago to be held back by the club that used to push him forward. He found himself well short of playing time when he should have been pushing on. That is why he has finally looked out of the window at La Masia to see what else there is out there.
England interests him, partly because of the success fellow Spaniards have enjoyed and partly because there is the possibility of becoming a focal point in a team. Thiago wants to lead and not follow.
His spell as captain of Spain’s Under-21 group allowed him a taste of this, guiding others and taking control of a team. What has been perceived as arrogance in the past with Thiago’s attitude and ability, is simply his way of imprinting his stamp on the game. Without it, we’d be talking about another generic midfielder.
Thiago is anything but generic, he’s a special player. So much so, those close to the inner workings of La Masia feel he’s the most unique and gifted player to ever emerge from the academy. High praise indeed, looking at previous graduates.
It’s not without foundation either, a few minutes of watching Thiago and you can’t help but become engrossed as he can alternate through various roles, and has done for Spain and Barcelona.
His ability to shift between the gears of a deep lying cog running the midfield, to a decisive playmaker is a rare quantity these days.
There is that Spanish sophistication and control that we now associate with the likes of Andres Iniesta and Xavi, but there is also that swagger, and ability to think outside the box. There is, I day say it, a bit of Ronaldinho in there for good measure.
Too often, however comparisons have been wrongly thrown at him, and whether he’ll be the new Xavi or Iniesta is simply not the issue. Thiago is Thiago: special in his own right.
Hat-trick hero: Thiago scored a treble against Italy in the Under-21 Euro final
What would he bring to United?
What he’ll bring to the team is a different way of thinking, but also a simple one. He can stitch together a midfield, help retain possession and allow his team to control play.
The beauty of his skill set allows him to do so much more though, as he can tear open defences with his exquisite vision and judgment of passing.
Then there is the player who joins the attack, moving into the penalty area through his subtle movement and taking up key positions – as shown by his hat-trick in the Under-21 Final.
That treble a perfect one too, with the player notching one with his left foot, right foot and a header. He’s fully capable with both, be it unloading a shot or delivering a pass.
On the field, rather than remain stationary and watch the game go by, Thiago is someone who loves to be involved be it on the ball or creating a problem off it in any way possible. He is a thinker - a great one too - but also a doer.
Manchester United would be advised to accommodate Thiago at the base of their midfield, playing slightly ahead of Michael Carrick. It would then allow someone like Shinji Kagawa to play ahead of him in a central role, where many think he would be at his best.
The Spaniard is someone who enjoys constructing moves from this position, offering give and gos, darting into the final third and keeping things flowing. One of the best features of his game is vision and interpretation of the game. By keeping him central – not too deep, or too advanced – he can read the game without any blind spots.
Be it in a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1, the two systems he’s most familiar with, Thiago could oversee all the movements of United and run the team from midfield. This by no means would overshadow Carrick’s influence, instead it would simply ease the burden on his shoulders that he has been carrying for some time.
Barcelona for whatever reason, be it oversight or just pure stupidity, simply didn’t give Thiago the ball enough.
“I’d be lying if I said my dream is to succeed at Barca,” Thiago said in 2011. “My dream is to succeed in football. I want to be the player that people remember forever”.
If United can offer what Barca haven’t, then they will have a player of world class in their armoury.
Filed under: Euro 2012
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