Manchester United: Why Barcelona Midfielder Thiago Alcantara is an Ideal Fit

James McNicholasFeatured ColumnistJune 12, 2013

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 09:  Thiago Alcantara of FC Barcelona duels for the ball with Abel Aguilar of RC Deportivo La Coruna during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and RC Deportivo La Coruna at Camp Nou on March 9, 2013 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

Manchester United are pursuing a pair of Barcelona midfielders. 

The Telegraph claims David Moyes is chasing former Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas, while The Mirror suggests United’s prime target is, in fact, Fabregas’ younger teammate, Thiago Alcantara.

Perhaps United’s intention is to force Barcelona to choose between the two. 

Both players are graduates of Barca’s celebrated La Masia academy, and both have separately been tipped to be the future centrifugal point of the Barcelona midfield.

Fabregas and Thiago are competing for the same spot in the team, and the Barcelona hierarchy may be forced to admit Nou Camp may not be able to accommodate the two ambitious young stars.

Last season Thiago looked the most likely to inherit Xavi’s throne. While Fabregas has struggled to re-assimilate into the Barcelona system he abandoned as teenager, Thiago’s development has been relatively seamless. The roar of approval that greets his introduction every time he takes to the field in Barca colours demonstrates the esteem he is held in by the club’s supporters.

However, Barcelona have invested heavily in Fabregas and are unlikely to jettison the costly prodigal son after just two seasons.

In his quest for first-team football, Thiago may be forced to move on. If he does opt to leave Spain, David Moyes should welcome him with open arms.

In recent seasons, United have been preparing for Paul Scholes’ inevitable retirement. As recently as January, the Manchester Evening News linked them with moves for both Luka Modric and Wesley Sneijder. Unfortunately, Sir Alex Ferguson wasn’t able to land either of those midfield maestros, and Scholes has subsequently hung up his boots. In his wake there is a creative vacuum that only a player with Thiago’s enormous potential and confidence could dare to fill.

Thiago would provide the spark to complement Michael Carrick’s consistency. The 22-year-old shares Xavi’s talent for dictating tempo but is also capable of producing individual moments of breathtaking skill. He is both a conductor and a soloist. 

Thiago’s father is former Brazilian international Mazinho. Alcantara has the Brazilian improvisational spirit in his blood, honed and disciplined by endless passing drills at La Masia.  

There may be some concerns over Thiago’s ability to cope with the rough and tumble of the Premier League. However, the recent success of La Liga exports Juan Mata, Santi Cazorla and David Silva ought to demonstrate that outstanding technique can flourish amid robust physicality. 

According to Spanish newspaper AS (in Spanish), Thiago Alcantara has played more matches in the first two seasons of his Barcelona career than either Xavi or Andres Iniesta managed. However, those two players are the very men who now stand in his way.

To spread his wings and fully express his remarkable talent, Thiago Alcantara may need to fly the nest. Old Trafford would be a perfect new home.