Bayern Munich have clinched the signing of midfielder Thiago Alcantara from Barcelona, per Sky Sport Italia's reporting (h/t @tancredipalmeri). If the reporting is accurate, it means Bayern have landed the latest punch in an escalating European arms race, following Barcelona's headline-catching capture of Neymar earlier this summer.
It would also prove—as if we didn't already know—that the presence of Pep Guardiola at another elite European club spells trouble for Barcelona.
UPDATE: The latest reports indicate negotiations are at "an advanced stage," instead of the deal being done.
Sky Italia have retracted their confirmation of the Thiago A. to Bayern deal. But "negotiations at an advanced stage" (via @SkySportNewsHD )— raphael honigstein (@honigstein) July 11, 2013
END OF UPDATE.
In addition to Sky Italia's breaking news, previous reports had suggested a deal was close. The Guardian reported Thursday that Guardiola and Bayern had targeted Thiago—and no further players—for a transfer. The Telegraph reported that Manchester United, who had been in the hunt for Thiago, feared losing out to Bayern, and Marca passed along Cadena COPE's report that the deal could be completed this week.
Thiago, 22, is a rising playmaking talent who scored three times in Spain's victory over Italy in June's Euro Under-21 final. But despite his impressive international exploits this summer, the Spaniard has found playing time hard to come by at the club level.
Last season, he scored twice and assisted on five goals in 27 La Liga appearances with Barcelona, but that last number is deceiving. Of those 27 appearances, 12 were as a substitute. As ESPN FC reported in May, Thiago played less than 30 minutes in about 60 percent of Barcelona's matches, and that amount of playing time reduced his release clause to €18 million from a potential €90 million.
As Barca Blaugranes details here, the specifics of the release clause are difficult to parse. What's certain, on the other hand, is that Thiago possesses plenty of talent.
"He is a super, super player," Guardiola said Thursday, per The Guardian. "He can play in three, four or five positions. It is either Thiago or nothing."
Guardiola, who managed Barcelona from 2008-12, knows what he's talking about in relation to Thiago. What's more, he probably knows the specifics of Thiago's contract. As such, it's of little surprise that Guardiola would be interested in bringing Thiago with him to Germany for his first season at Bayern.
And considering the success Guardiola had at Barcelona—he won 14 major trophies in four years and developed Lionel Messi into the world's best player—it's not surprising that Thiago would be interested as well.
Throw in the fact that Thiago's agent is Pere Guardiola—brother of Pep—and this news makes almost too much sense. Still, losing a player of Thiago's talent and potential will leave Barcelona feeling chagrined, especially since the new suitor is led by Barca's former manager.
In early June, Barcelona made the biggest transfer splash of the summer so far by signing Brazilian starlet Neymar from Santos. Bayern signing Thiago—if the reports are true—wouldn't top that, but it would take some of the shine off Barca.
Keep in mind that Bayern have already signed Mario Gotze, formerly the best player for Champions League runners-up Borussia Dortmund, this summer. Combined with the Thiago news, that means Bayern have become even stronger.
For their opponents, it must be a maddening and almost improbable prospect. Bayern are already on top of European football, having won a treble last season. With Pep, Mario and Thiago on board, their reign is picking up staying power.