Thiago Alcántara 22 Midfielder Bayern Munich Spain
2013 has been…
A big one for the boy who would be King.
If Fabregas was once thought of as Xavi’s heir apparent then it’s fair to say it was assumed everything would be okay on the Iniesta front as well thanks to the presence of Thiago Alcántara. There was an air of arrogance at the suggestion he wouldn’t be happy being part of the match day squad but not always the first eleven until they were ready at Barcelona - this is a more than a club after all, right? Well no, not in the mind of an ambitious young footballer who craves a starring role and certainly not one whose former mentor is eager to be reunited with his young prodigy.
Thiago did the unthinkable in the summer and left Barca for pastures German, significant not just because it represented a player leaving the Spanish giants at the start of a promising career and not the end, but also because he had realised what some at the Nou Camp still fail to grasp - it is one thing to be feted but another to be able to prove it. Plaudits are lovely but playing time is better.
And so he now finds himself 22-years of age with two of biggest clubs in the world already on his CV and a €25m+ transfer fee to repay. Pep’s faith is unshakable and after a fairly low-key start and then an ankle injury that has kept him out until the week of writing his review, he still has it all ahead of him. At Barca he was a substitute, a replacement until so-and-so was fit again or part of the squad rotation more often than not, now it’s time to become a fully-fledged member of the starting eleven at Bayern. The injury has delayed things but 2014 needs to be his year, the naysayers are just beginning to circle.
We’ve been told by all and sundry that Thiago is the best young attacking midfielder in the world time and time again, therefore is it harsh to have expected a bit more? We know opportunities were limited at Barca but he’s taken the long road again by moving to Bayern, a club with a first eleven arguably even more challenging than the one at the Nou Camp to crack. The hundreds of words written in his name and yards of praise lavished on him need justifying eventually, can he realistically be expected to do that having failed to break into the old best team in the world on a regular basis by trying to break into the new one?
The Manchester United move was never on apparently; the player only had eyes for Pep no matter how flirtatious or public various representatives from Old Trafford were. On reflection that’s a great shame as (injury permitting) he would now have played most of the season and would be settling in, perhaps even beginning to answer some of the questions. The problem with being the next big thing is that the expectation never really goes away until you’re delivering somewhere week in and week out. Can he do it at Bayern? It’s a big ask for any player, let alone one so early into his career.
At 22 years of age he now needs to be starting games every week, admiration is nice but evidence is better. He has the pedigree and the training to be special, he has shown that he is in fits and starts, time to find that level of consistency he can comfortably deliver and go from there. We don’t want to appear negative and he is still a wonderful player, we just want to see it more often. We think in five years time he’ll be among the top ten midfielders in world football if he can really get going at Bayern, but the last year and a half we’ve been waiting for the show to start. The curtains are up, lights on and the opening musical number is over, time for the main attraction to live up to the billing.
“Sad that he left Spain but it's all through the fault of Barcelona. His leadership at the Under-21's offered his own club - not that he needed to - a reminder he must be given the limelight. He wasn't and now Bayern Munich are blessed with the Spanish technique and Brazilian flair that make a mouthwatering mix” – David Cartlidge, Spanish football writer
"There were a few raised eyebrows when Guardiola brought Alcántara to Munich and the start of his career was frustrated by an injury. However, his killer pass to set up Arjen Robben's second goal against Borussia Dortmund in late November, illustrates how valuable a player he could prove to be as Bayern go on to secure the Bundesliga title and perhaps more, come May 2014" - Terry Duffelen, Talking Fussball Extra
"At the UEFA Under-21 Championships in Israel, Thiago Alcantara was the only player to make more than 200 passes in the opposition's half (207)." - Opta
C Understandably tired of waiting at Barca he didn’t make it any easier for himself at Bayern, time to live up to the column inches