Picking a Barcelona Starting Lineup to Utilise Thiago, Xavi and Iniesta

Samuel Marsden@@samuelmarsdenFeatured ColumnistJune 19, 2013

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - JUNE 18: Thiago Alcantara (front) of Spain celebrates his team's second goal with team mate Alvaro Morata during the UEFA European U21 Championship final match between Italy and Spain at Teddy Stadium on June 18, 2013 in Jerusalem, Israel.  (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)
Alex Grimm/Getty Images

There's a little bit of concern in the Catalan air on Wednesday, following Thiago Alcantara's hat-trick in the final of the Under 21 European Championships.

Speaking to Spanish radio station Onda Cero on Tuesday night Gerard Pique said "there is a possibility that [Thiago] could leave, but we have to convince him that the best place for him is Barcelona" (h/t Daily Mail).

Newspaper Sport's headline focused on Thiago too: This superstar cannot leave.

The concern stems from the continued interest from Manchester United, as reported by The Sun, as the player's Dad, former Brazilian international Mazinho, seems intent on either getting his son a move or a regular place in the the Barca 11.

Supposedly, as Thiago played less than 60 percent of Barcelona's games last season, he could be available for as little as €18 million this summer, as Goal.com reports:

The clause, which was insisted upon by the player's agent (Pep Guardiola's brother Pere) after talks with Thiago and his father, Brazilian World Cup winner Mazinho, stated that the midfielder must feature for 30 minutes or more in 60 per cent of Barcelona's matches last term. And although he did play in exactly 60% of games (Thiago featured in 36 club fixtures in 2012-13, out of a possible 60) and average well over half an hour per match (with 1904 minutes in total), he failed to complete the required amount in 15 of the 36 matches.

With the World Cup coming up in Brazil in 2014, his Dad believes it's best for Thiago to be a regular player for his club side to maximize the chances of him getting into Spain's squad, if not the first team.

So how could Barcelona squeeze him into their plans to convince him to stay?

Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets are shoe-ins in any side Tito Vilanova picks for the big games, so how can he come up with the necessary guarantees to convince the 22-year-old midfielder that he doesn't need to leave for pastures new?

Presumably Neymar, like Lionel Messi, will become a vital part of the starting lineup too. That would leave one place for the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Pedro Rodriguez, Alexis Sanchez and Thiago to battle it out for.

To accommodate all of his pass masters, Vilanova would have to shift Iniesta further forward again—like he did for large parts of the first half of 2012/13.

Busquets would sit as the deepest midfielder, with Xavi and Thiago in front of him. Iniesta and Neymar would be tasked with providing the width—although that could also come from the full-backs—and Lionel Messi would be the focal point.

In this scenario the back five remains fairly similar.

Based on what is available at the club at the moment, Victor Valdes would start in goal. Jordi Alba and Dani Alves would be the full-backs either side of Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano.

It's hard to see Vilanova picking that side, though, so how will he offer Thiago reassurances when he returns from Israel to decide his future?

Possibly he won't be able to, and if he can't, Barcelona will be left to curse the clause that allowed one of their future stars to wriggle away.