Manchester United’s target Thiago is more than ‘anarchist’

Free spirit who inspired Spain to Euro Under-21s glory has Barça buyout clause of just £15m

Barcelona

If Manchester United can complete the signing of Barcelona’s Thiago Alcantara they will have captured one of European football’s most cavalier young talents – a free spirit whose penchant for trying the unexpected has attracted the interest of United, but also helped persuade Barça to let him go.

It now looks like their decision to set his buyout clause as low as £15m will go down as one of the gaffes of the summer – Barcelona could have raised considerably more after he starred in Spain Under-21s European Championship triumph this month. But the bargain price hints at a nagging doubt shared by certain members of the club’s technical staff, who  believe he gives the ball away too much and is slow to win it back. They say he is an anarchist on the pitch.

The observations should not raise too much alarm among United fans as this criticism is a result of him being judged by Barça’s standards. He has been measured against Xavi, who went through one Champions League game last season against Paris Saint-Germain without giving the ball away once. 

Similarly, the observation that Thiago can be slow to win it back is true only when applying Barça’s golden rule of regaining possession within seconds of having lost it. Opta stats had him excelling in the Euros at both winning and keeping the ball.

Take away the Barcelona yardsticks and you are left with a wonderful player – one who former Barça coach Pep Guardiola was last night urging his Bayern Munich directors to try to sign having been made aware of Thiago’s decision to leave the Nou Camp.

“I am not going to change my way of playing football,” Thiago said at the start of the 2011-12 season. “It is what has got me where I am today. I just need to polish up certain things and that will happen with time.”

There have not been enough opportunities to do that at Barça. At the Under-21 Championship he stood out playing in the three behind the striker with the support of two holding midfielders behind him. At Barcelona that is a space occupied primarily by Lionel Messi, Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta and now Neymar too. Thiago has to play deeper and, with fewer options to shoot or play the final killer ball, he is more likely to gamble with possession. In the more chaotic environment of the Premier League he will thrive as much as he did in Israel.

As players from that successful Under-21 team returned to Spain this week the man who scored a hat-trick in the final against Italy juggled the match ball signed by his team-mates as he headed to the arrivals lounge. He is more “made in Brazil” than born to play for Barcelona, although he chose Spain over the country his father Mazhino played for 35 times.

“I am who I am thanks to Spain,” Thiago said before making his pledge of allegiance. He is desperate to follow up this season’s success by starring in next summer’s World Cup, but knows he must find a better platform from which to do that than the Barcelona bench.

Arts and Entertainment
Supporting role: at the Supreme Court, Rhodes was accompanied by a famous friend, the actor Benedict Cumberbatch
booksPianist James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to stop the injunction of his memoirs
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan
filmDheepan, film review
Sport
Steven Gerrard scores for Liverpool
sport
News
peopleComedian star of Ed Sullivan Show was mother to Ben Stiller
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?