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.

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

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map