Thiago, the next big thing?
After ending the 2010-11 campaign with three goals and three assists in 17 appearances, Barcelona attacking midfielder Thiago Alcantara took off this summer.
It was Alcantara's splendid displays in the center of the park that helped his Spanish side storm through the 2011 UEFA European Under-21 Football Championships in Denmark.
Everything fell into place for the young Catalan during Spain's 2–0 victory in the U-21 finals over Switzerland, where he sent shockwaves throughout the Old Continent with this screaming free kick from 40 yards out.
His performance against Switzerland earned him Man of the Match honors. Not yet finished with the individual accolades, Thiago was awarded Player of the Tournament for his decisive contributions throughout.
Buoyed by that title, Alcantara saw decent minutes with the blaugrana during their pre-season tour, during which he scored a spectacular goal against Bayern Munich in July's Audi Cup.
The Spain international’s dazzling form continued upon his return to his club side.
With Xavi nursing an injury, Alcantara saw premium minutes in center midfield.
And he made the most of them, with this wonderful effort clinching a win over Bayern Munich in the preseason Audi Cup. Not yet finished with his whirlwind of a preseason, Thiago stunned Manchester United with this strike in Washington, D.C.
What do you think is Thiago's future?
Things get a bit tricky, however, with Barcelona's acquisition of Arsenal captain (and former la Masia product) Cesc Fabregas—despite Alcantara's having just signed a contract extension keeping him at Barcelona through June 30, 2015 (with a buyout clause of €90 million), there is growing speculation that Barca's newest move makes him surplus to requirements.
After all, with many questioning how the older, more established Fabregas will find time in Barca's all-star midfield, Thiago seems destined for another season on the fringes of first-team football. Another youngster, Bojan Krkic—high on talent, but who's never been able to crack the first XI—will play his football at Roma this season.
Their foray was in vain, however, as club CEO—and wizard in transfer wheelings and dealings—Adriano Galliani had this to say to Corriere della Sera:
"I have spoken with Thiago Alcantara's agent, Giovanni Branchini, who is in Forte Dei Marmi on holiday, but Barcelona don't want to sell him."
“Sell” being the operative term, lending to the possibility of a loan deal under the right conditions. And if we know Barcelona, who gave the word "coy" new meaning during their protracted pursuit of Fabregas, anything can happen with Alcantara's future.
Given the relationship between Roma and Barcelona, is it possible Luis Enrique could lure the young player to the Stadio Olimpico with the promise of regular first-team action?
A move to the Eternal City would be a splendid piece of business by the Romans, as it was clear that the Giallorossi’s midfield was considerably lacking in technical ability during a 3-0 friendly loss against La Liga side Valencia. With aging talisman Francesco Totti destined to retire soon, a spot in central midfield is definitely set to open. Were Thiago to pair with Daniele de Rossi, Roma would have quite a pair of midfielders on their hands.
Yet that scenario seems unlikely to come off, as Barca will cite lack of depth.
Thiago is far too dynamic a talent to let go in the face of a busy campaign which will see the Catalans compete in a horde of tournaments. A repeat of their six-trophy haul in 2009 may be in the cards!
Thiago is the future, and he is not going anywhere!