It's deja vu all over again for Manchester United.
The move that would send Thiago Alcantara to Old Trafford felt like a foregone conclusion. Only a few days ago, Chris Wheeler of the Daily Mail reported the club had agreed to a contract with the player.
Now, nothing new has really come out, and United supporters are starting to get a little anxious.
Spanish football expert Graham Hunter shed some light on the situation.
This all has the same feel of the supposed Lucas Moura transfer around this same time last year. It looked like Lucas was going to end up at Old Trafford, and then Paris Saint-Germain swooped in and bought him instead. Lucas' agent, Wagner Ribeiro, revealed to Brazilian media outlet UOL exactly how close the deal was to getting done, per ESPN FC:
Everything was agreed between Sao Paulo and Manchester United. The contract had been written and just needed to be signed, but then Leonardo called me and asked to talk to Lucas.
They talked. Leonardo was helped by the fact he is Brazilian. He was very gentle with Lucas. The possibility of living in Paris - a much more pleasant city than Manchester - also influenced his decision, but it was PSG's project that impressed Lucas.
Lucas would have been the ideal signing for United, and more than made up for the club losing out on Luka Modric, Eden Hazard and Wesley Sneijder. Then he just become another one that got away.
It's a list that could grow if the club doesn't snap up Thiago now.
At this point, the move away from Barcelona is all up to the player. He's got a release clause, which United seem to have activated. Barca can't do anything to stop it. The only thing they could do is convince the player to stay.
The longer this saga drags out, the better the chance that Barca will be to do just that.
There are plenty of reasons for Thiago to stay. The club will always be in the top two of La Liga and mount solid Champions League campaigns. Thiago is also comfortable in Spain.
He can continue to learn from the two best midfielders in the world: Xavi and Andres Iniesta. Xavi might also give Thiago some pointers about how he almost left Barcelona, too, only to stay and win multiple league and European titles.
For Barcelona, this could a case of you don't know what you've got till it's gone. Thiago's desire to leave could be the thing that galvanizes the club into giving the player a major role in the starting XI.
Manchester United's biggest advantage on Barcelona right now is that they could feature Thiago more in the first team while also allowing him to play for one of the biggest clubs in the world.
If Hunter is right and United would balk at any sort of release clause triggered by appearances, that will make the player further question if he should really move at this point. Why should he go to Manchester United when they can't make any more of guarantee than Barcelona can that he'll get playing time?
You'd think it wouldn't be an issue for the Red Devils. Thiago is exactly the kind of player the club has needed for the last four or five seasons. He can slot into the midfield right next to Michael Carrick and offer a deep-lying, creative option in the attack. Wayne Rooney has made it clear he's not willing to play that role right now.
Manchester United have to get this deal done. This is a golden opportunity to add one of the most promising young midfielders for a bargain. After seeing so many players slip through their grasp, the Red Devils would be foolish to let it happen again.
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