David Moyes has already completed his first signing as Manchester United manager with the capture of Uruguayan defender Guillermo Varela, but the new boss is far from finished in the transfer market as he looks to make the team his own.
One of the biggest rumours surrounding incoming moves to Old Trafford at present is that of Barcelona’s attacking midfielder Thiago Alcantara, who Mirror Football report is available for £15 million this summer and is a major target of United’s.
The 22-year-old is a regular in the Barcelona squad in La Liga, but the report indicates that his release clause has been lowered as a result of not playing at least 30 minutes in 60 percent of La Liga games during 2012-13.
Thiago, who despite being touted as one of the next best players in world football, has somewhat surprisingly barely been given any regular first-team football by Barca this season, leaving the Spaniard disheartened and looking for a way out to find regular playing time.
A midfielder who was born in Italy, has a Brazilian father and plays for Spain, Thiago has been tipped to be the replacement for Xavi.
Starting his career in Brazil, he played youth football at Flamengo before moving to Spain and joining the Galician team Ureca in Nigran. Moving back forth between the countries, he finally settled in Barcelona (where his cousin Patrick was also playing) and joined La Masia in 2005.
Graduating from the academy, Thiago’s skill on the ball set him apart from others and he was given his first-team debut in May 2009 at the age of 18. Slowly making his name as a useful squad player, he filled in the gaps in the hugely successful Barcelona side and signed a contract renewal keeping him at Barcelona until 2015.
With Barcelona looking to rotate tired players, he was given more of a role in 2011-12 after helping Spain to win the European Under-21 Championship and should be a fixture in the squad for many years to come.
This season he has appeared 27 times for Barca, scoring 2 goals in total.
Positioning and Ability
Thiago operates best in attack, when he has a defensive midfielder playing behind him.
His favourite area to operate in is not ahead of the backline, but in the space between the opposing midfield and backline (or slightly ahead of the midfield).
Many people believe he can play in place of Michael Carrick but the truth is Alcantara is a much more adventurous and attacking minded midfielder.
Moreover, he’s always played in a three-man midfield at Barcelona and Spain, with a midfielder behind him who gives Thiago the license to roam all over the pitch.
An elegant and composed player on the ball, Thiago has the passing ability and consistency to maintain possession for his team under pressure or find the killer ball to unlock a defence. Never afraid with the ball at his feet, he can take on a man or break forward from deep at pace.
He has goals in his game too, an important asset for both club and country given their emphasis on waiting until the right moment to burst through on goal—and an obvious appeal to any potential suitors too.
How would he fit in at Old Trafford?
Manchester United have been linked with a range of attacking central midfielders over the past couple of seasons, with popular opinion being that this is the area which needs most attention in the transfer market.
While United won the Premier League at a bit of a canter last season, they were undone in Europe and will look to improve their projections in that tournament over the coming seasons.
Thiago Alcantara will add a huge amount of quality and plenty of potential to get even better over the next two or three seasons, as he possibly adapts to a new role—whether David Moyes would intend to use him as a central midfielder or a No. 10 is not immediately clear.
Under-21 European Championship Performance
At the recently ended European under-21 Championships in Israel, Spain were once more triumphant and, as captain, Thiago Alcantara lifted the trophy after a win over Italy in the final.
He himself was key in the game, scoring a hat trick in the first half en-route to a 4-2 win.
Along with the likes of Isco and Asier Illarramendi, Thiago and his teammates were the stand-out performers for Spain on their road to glory, and the final performance especially will have offered compelling evidence to press ahead with plans to sign the Barcelona player that teams may have had.
As well as his technical and tactical abilities, Thiago showed good leadership and an exemplary work rate while wearing the captain’s armband.
For what the Red Devils would be purchasing, £15 million is an absolute steal. Thiago is one of the most promising attacking midfielders in the modern game, and would bring an element of flair that the United center of the park have severely missed since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Aged just 22, Thiago would have plenty of time to adjust and become moulded into the United style of play.
This transfer is an extremely exciting prospect. Thiago is one of the next crop of Spain players who we have so often seen dominating the world game. Having just one of that team at United would be amazing for the club.
Should Moyes only sign one other player during this window, Alcantara should be only man to target. I’m desperate to see him move to Old Trafford.