Thiago Alcantara scored a hat-trick to help Spain capture the European Under-21 Championship trophy. Now, the focus turns to his club future after struggling to make a consistent first-team impact with Barcelona and Manchester United looming.
Even though Barca have a stacked midfield, led by veteran superstars Andres Iniesta and Xavi, they are trying to convince Thiago to stay. Dermot Corrigan of ESPN reports their efforts have been fruitless so far, but they remain hopeful.
"We did everything," the source said. "The directors, Tito and Zubi all spoke with the player, to explain the evolution of the squad to him. He is a sensational player, among those we do not doubt, he has a contract and we hope he does not go."
United are mentioned in a group that also includes Bayern Munich and Chelsea as clubs linked to the 22-year-old midfielder. Thiago wouldn't make any direct comments about those sides but does say in the report that the World Cup is his target.
I have always had patience. There are no more underage teams left so now we are thinking about the senior side. To play a World Cup would be a dream, my biggest aspiration. I must play games with my club and show in the day-to-day action that I can be with the senior side.
New Red Devils manager David Moyes should see the uncertainty as a golden opportunity. Bolstering the midfield should be one of the main goals during his first summer with the club, and he will struggle to find players with more upside than the Spanish international.
Thiago clearly wants a chance to prove himself on a weekly basis to impress Spain head coach Vicente del Bosque heading into next year's World Cup. The dominant European squad will once again be a top contender, and it's no surprise the talented midfielder wants in on the experience.
Barcelona would love to keep him because they, like the other interested clubs, can see the bright future ahead of the offensive dynamo. Yet, it's hard to see the Blaugrana finding a way to guarantee him first-team time with all the other midfielders on the squad.
Where will Thiago play next season?
After all, the main reason he's become such a coveted commodity is Barca's inability to reach a playing-time threshold, which led to a drop in his buyout clause, as reported by Ben Hayward of Goal.com. He can now be had for £15 million.
On the other hand, United should have no trouble working him into their midfield, which could very well go through an overhaul in the coming months. Making Thiago a part of that would be a huge step in the right direction—not only for next season, but moving forward, as well.
At the same time, Thiago would still be playing for one of the biggest clubs in Europe. A strong season in the Premier League and standing out in Champions League play would go a long way in helping him earn that World Cup roster berth.
While the exact interest level from clubs like Bayern and Chelsea is unclear, United can expect to face plenty of competition in the race to land the young star's signature, if he does decide to leave Camp Nou.
The Red Devils shouldn't back down. If they want to defend the Premier League title and a make a deeper run in the Champions League, this is the type of addition that must be made. Should Chelsea land Thiago, they begin to close the gap on United.
Thiago is going to shine regardless of where he plays next season, as long as he's given a chance to play extended minutes. United should do everything in their power to make Old Trafford his new home.