Since leaving his boyhood club Barcelona in 2013 and joining former manager Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich, we’ve seen Thiago Alcântara develop into one of the best midfielders in the world.
Few footballers consistently do a better job in his position as we saw in the 2020 Champions league final. You’d assume this would make Thiago pretty unobtainable. However, Bayern say otherwise.
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge recently confirmed Thiago is seeking a new challenge, adding: “We have a contract that is still valid for one year, and if he agrees with any club they should pay a transfer of a certain amount.”
And his coach Hans-Dieter Flick, speaking after the Champions League final, said of Thiago’s future: “I don’t know and I think he doesn’t know either. We’ll have to wait and see what will happen.”
According to a Sport Bild report, that certain amount is £27m. It’s a paltry sum and only makes sense because Thiago has entered the final year of his current deal, a situation certain to pique the interest of certain suitors, most of whom (if not all) you’d consider a ‘super club’.
So expect to see Thiago continue operating at the very highest level. Below are four feasible contenders to become Thiago’s next club. We have the dream option, a realistic choice, a wildcard candidate and, finally, a personal recommendation for the midfielder, who is currently the eighth most valuable player in Bayern Munich’s squad – according to Football Index*.
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Thiago broke through at Barcelona under the guidance of Guardiola. Such was his talent, all he lacked in becoming Xavi’s heir was the patience to wait for regular playing time. Accordingly, a sensational departure for Germany followed in 2013 after 100 appearances for his boyhood team.
With Bayern, he has won seven Bundesliga titles, the latest of which he spent much of playing as a left-sided central midfielder while also dabbling in the holding role.
Thiago’s departure did not go down well with Barça’s fanbase. Losing a homegrown, future star should only happen to other clubs, not Barcelona. But could this be the perfect time to return to Catalunya? The 8-2 demolition Thiago and Bayern put on Barcelona was not just a stark reminder of his own genius but also put the Blaugrana into rebuilding mode. Several stars are earmarked to leave and players will have to come in for reasonable fees (like if their contract was expiring in a year).
Barcelona have one of the world’s brightest young midfield talents already in Frenkie de Jong, and Miralem Pjanic is replacing the outgoing Arthur Melo. But Sergio Busquets is 32, and it’s no secret that Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal are on the way out. Thiago, Pjanic and De Jong? Not quite Busquets-Xavi-Iniesta (and let’s face it, what is?) but the technical ability of that midfield trio would be off the charts. Throw in young Riqui Puig and the promising Pedri and you’ve really got the makings of a great midfield.
Here, however, the difference between dream and realistic really boils down to squad space as much as anything. The powers that be at Barça may feel Pjanic is enough for one summer. You also have Riqui Puig ready to break through and most of this summer’s limited transfer budget should go toward a new centre-forward; Lautaro Martinez seems the top target. So Barcelona’s path back to being Europe’s undisputed number one club will realistically continue without Thiago.
In a better position for that honorific title, though, are newly-crowned English champions Liverpool, who also won a sixth European Cup crown last summer. Reds boss Jurgen Klopp is under no illusion as to what needs to happen now for the Merseysiders to retain their newfound status beyond this campaign. Liverpool’s first-choice midfield has been a strong point of their near-flawless team; Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum complement each other so well. But supplementing their squad with someone of Thiago’s class would be a statement of intent.
Klopp, as ever, is refusing to fuel any speculation. “I have no idea who will play for me next year, there is nothing to say at the moment,” he recently told the press. “Thiago Alcantara is a great player, but also a Bayern Munich player. That’s actually all there is to say. There’s nothing to say!”
You could read more about why Thiago would, contrary to what some might think, work in Liverpool’s midfield by clicking here. But strangely for one of the world’s richest club, the question is can they actually afford him?
Because the key sticking point is, unlike Liverpool’s rivals, this club lives within their means. Transfers only really happen when they offload a number of players. Wijnaldum is the most valuable player the Reds could feasibly sell this summer. Like Thiago, his current contract expires next summer. If he doesn’t renew soon, it’s been suggested Liverpool will make a call on whether to cash in while they can or squeeze one final season out of their Champions League semi-final hero before letting him leave for free.
Wildcard: Manchester United
We’ve seen what happens when you acquire the services of a quality midfielder. Although not quite the same as Thiago with respect to playing style, there’s no question Bruno Fernandes has made a catalytic impact at Manchester United. They have been a completely different team since the Portuguese international completed his long-awaited transfer this past winter.
Now guaranteed a return to Champions League football, expect the Red Devils to flex their financial might as they continue their rebuilding in the post-Ferguson era. In mid-July, Spanish newspaper Sport reported that he is ‘about to leave Bayern Munich and sign for Manchester United’.
Music to fans’ ears, naturally, but would signing Thiago make sense from a tactical perspective? Such a question never stopped United before and signing big names for the sake of it ultimately led United to where they are now.
Then again, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team is actually starting to make sense. The magic Paul Pogba and the aforementioned Fernandes have been making since the restart depends on the presence of a more selfless, defence-minded individual capable of steadying the ship.
United could do better than 32-year-old Nemanja Matic in this position, and Fred showed in the Europa League that a “passer” can work at pivot. But although Thiago’s reading of the game and defensive output this season have been of high quality (certainly higher than Fred’s) he is perhaps too much of a protagonist to thrive alongside both Pogba and Fernandes. To ask him to screen the defence and funnel possession toward the two aforementioned midfielders would be limiting for a player who will no doubt command a high salary.
Still, as far as wildcard options go, would a trio of Thiago-Fernandes-Pogba embedded within a 4-2-3-1 just be crazy enough to work? It has the makings of both an absolute car-crash defensively or one of the best midfields in the Champions League. Our heart says the latter, our head the former.
And as for whether United are actively trying to sign Thiago as you read this, Sport’s bold claim has picked up little traction since going to print. United fans may have to console themselves with links to Jadon Sancho, one of only four Bundesliga players to complete more dribbles than Thiago in 2019/20.
Suggests: Paris Saint-Germain
Thiago’s father Mazinho, who lifted the 1994 World Cup with Brazil, spent the early 1990s in Serie A. In this time, he represented Lecce, where he suffered the ignominy of relegation, before turning out for Fiorentina. It was around this period his son, the current Bayern star, was born.
Back then, Italy’s premier division stood head and shoulders above the rest. It remains as tactically challenging, but aside from Juventus and perhaps Inter Milan is there a club that could afford his realistically lofty wages?
AC Milan courted Thiago before he joined Bayern and in their current guise of a fallen powerhouse looking to rise again would theoretically offer him an immediate starting spot. But wages and their lack of Champions League football are the biggest stumbling blocks here.
The same cannot be said for perennial Ligue 1 winners PSG, who are seemingly open to competition for places in midfield. Marco Verratti was for so long an undisputed first-choice option in their midfield, but injury hit and despite working his way back to full fitness Thomas Tuchel benched him for Leandro Paredes in the Coupe de France final against Saint-Etienne.
Verratti came back into the lineup for another final, this time against Lyon in the Coupe de la Ligue, but Tuchel doesn’t exactly have a settled midfield right now. Looking at the Champions League final as Thiago’s Bayern dominated Verratti’s PSG, even when the Italian came off the bench, and it’s clear that the Spaniard would instantly lift the quality of the Parisians just by showing up and give them the kind of control which could put them over the edge in crunch games like the Champions League final.