Thiago Set to Be Bayern Munich's Key Man Following Toni Kroos Exit

Peter GalindoFeatured ColumnistJuly 17, 2014

Bayern's Thiago Alcantara takes the ball forward during a Champions League, round of 16, first leg soccer match between Arsenal and Bayern Munich at the Emirates stadium in London, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014 .(AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Alastair Grant/Associated Press

Bayern Munich signed Thiago Alcantara from Barcelona last summer. Manager Pep Guardiola claimed afterward that he was the most integral signing for the new system. With Toni Kroos now leaving for Real Madrid, per BBC, Thiago is now the engine that will run Bayern this upcoming season.

In an interview last June prior to Thiago's arrival, Guardiola was adamant that the club sign him, per the official Bundesliga website.

I've asked [sporting director] Matthias Sammer and [CEO] Karl-Heinz Rummenigge to get him, said Guardiola.

He's a very talented player ... It's Thiago or nothing.

Pep Guardiola (left) believed that Thiago was crucial to his plans back in the summer of 2013.
Pep Guardiola (left) believed that Thiago was crucial to his plans back in the summer of 2013.Getty Images

Everyone questioned why Guardiola wanted Bayern to go all out to sign Thiago. They had a plethora of midfielders available. Despite that, the Spanish midfielder still made 24 appearances in all competitions, per ESPN FC.

The only reason Thiago didn't play more was due to injury. He suffered torn ligaments in his right leg early in the 2013-14 season and was out from late August until November. Subsequently, the same injury occurred to the same knee in late March, and he ended up missing the World Cup.

When Bayern was eliminated from the Champions League, no one could quite pinpoint the reason for the sudden collapse in both European and domestic competition. Losing Thiago to the second injury was what did them in.

Bayern won the DFB Pokal to complete the domestic double, but Guardiola's system wasn't as effective without his key man. In the matches Bayern played with Thiago, they recorded 22 wins out of 25 matches.

Thiago (left) was the missing piece for Bayern Munich in the last few matches of the season.
Thiago (left) was the missing piece for Bayern Munich in the last few matches of the season.Kerstin Joensson/Associated Press

The 3-3 draw with Hoffenheim to clinch the Bundesliga title was the only draw of the bunch. The 3-2 loss to Manchester City in the final group-stage match of the Champions League, when Bayern already clinched first place in Group D, was insignificant. The 4-2 defeat against Borussia Dortmund in the German Super Cup in July was the other blemish.

It's no coincidence that once Thiago went down during the last stretch of matches, Bayern struggled.

Now that Kroos has gone to Real Madrid, there will be less competition for Thiago's spot, although there shouldn't be since Guardiola regards the 23-year-old to be a key player.

Thiago's passing was incredible when he played. He was 91 percent accurate, creating 20 chances in 16 league appearances, per Squawka. Considering it was his first season in a new league and country, his performances were very impressive.

There's more to come from Thiago this season, and expectations will be high. Bastian Schweinsteiger is the only real competitor for the position, assuming Guardiola goes 4-1-4-1 again. If he switches to 4-2-3-1 as he did in the latter half of 2013-14, then it won't be a problem.

Bayern should be the favorite in the Bundesliga, but they will also be a fierce opponent in the Champions League again. If Thiago stays healthy, then the Bavarians will be a very difficult side to beat on all fronts.