Wouldn’t it just be the most appropriate way to enter this summer’s market: Manchester United rounding off the top clubs in the Premier League by landing a Spanish-based midfielder and addressing that problem once and for all; a problem that isn’t really a problem but one that we paint in that respect regardless.
Thiago Alcantara may make the move away from Barcelona this summer, and it won’t be because Manchester United are too big a club to turn down and he’ll be in a team where the trophies will continue pour in; any move in the near future will be completely about the player.
And that’s where clubs like United will benefit. Having played less than 60 per cent of Barcelona’s first-team games this past season, Thiago’s buy-out clause has been reduced to a figure in or around £15 million. I don’t think Barcelona have lost any of their belief that the Spanish U21 international will one day become a leading light among European-based midfielders, but the time for him to take over one of the spots in their midfield on a regular basis just isn’t now.
You also need to look to the idea that maybe Thiago wants to forge a career and a reputation away from Xavi and Andres Iniesta. Maybe he doesn’t want to go his whole career being compared to two players who he has been touted to replace in the future. Thiago plays the game as well as any midfielder in his age group and can become an elite player in a few short years. He can be deployed in the ‘pivot’ role or closer to the striker, obviously meaning that comparisons to either Xavi or Iniesta will never truly go away.
But Manchester United does tick all the right boxes. He’s far too good to not go to a club like United, and he’s far too good not to become their most vital midfield acquisition in many, many years. The ideal replacement for Paul Scholes? Well that just opens up the same problems to what’s currently on the table at Barcelona. No, Thiago will forge his own legacy as the focal point of Manchester United’s dominance over the next few years – provided he makes the switch.
The pieces are already in place for a player of his calibre at Old Trafford. Jurgen Klopp sounded bewildered and disappointed that Shinji Kagawa was reduced to a role on the flank of United’s attack. And who’s going to argue with the Dortmund manager? He brought Kagawa to Europe and allowed him to become with one of the Bundesliga’s finest attackers in those two title-winning seasons. Kagawa was so vital to Dortmund’s success that he kept Mario Goetze out on the right flank while he pulled the strings in the middle. If David Moyes opts to go down a similar path with one striker at United, Thiago and Kagawa could form an irresistible partnership in the midfield.
There is, of course, still some way to go before Thiago is the complete midfield player. As already mentioned, he doesn’t hold an integral role in the Barcelona squad, but has been preferred in the middle over Cesc Fabregas at times. He has plenty of tricks and flicks in his locker, many of which force a smile at the pure audacity. But taking on a lead role in a team like United will force greater discipline and the need to only use elaborate plays when necessary.
Thiago has won titles and he’s done it off the backs of others, with the senior Barcelona players taking him under their wing. That may still be the case even once those players move on through retirement. It shouldn’t simply be a matter a landing titles in his immediate future, rather it’s is about Thiago establishing himself as a full international and a leader in a team that doesn’t persist with recollections of the past, notably one that included him.
So instead of asking whether Thiago is the ideal signing for Manchester United, it’s better to say that United offers the ideal destination for Thiago.
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