According to reports, Thiago Alcantara is on the verge of signing with reigning German and European champions Bayern Munich. The 22-year-old has also been linked with English champions Manchester United, but Spanish radio station Cadena COPE (h/t Metro) claim a reunion with former boss Pep Guardiola is the likelier scenario for the Spanish international.
After his year-long sabbatical, Guardiola takes control of the 'German Giants' after leaving boyhood club FC Barcelona following the 2011-12 season. Guardiola will hope to bring further success to Munich following their unprecedented treble last season. Regarding the Spanish youngster, Guardiola claimed, via The Sun:
“Thiago is the only player I want, that’s what I told them...It’ll be him or no one. We have many players but we the need the special extra quality that Thiago Alcântara brings."
While a move to Bayern Munich is a very attractive offer for Alcantara, perhaps he should not be so quick to rule out a move to Manchester United.
United Lineup Built for Alcantara
There is no question that the stronger squad belongs to Bayern Munich. While short-term success is virtually guaranteed for Alcantara, he would likely have to battle for playing time at Munich. Though Guardiola has sung his praises toward the youngster, it would be unwise to disturb Bayern's team chemistry fresh off a Champions League title less than two months ago by passing over regular starters in favor of Alcantara.
While Alcantara poses as a fierce attacking threat for any club, the engine of the current Bayern Munich machine is the midfield duo of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Thomas Muller, along with the attacking flair of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery. Guardiola will also have new signing Mario Goetze from rival Borussia Dortmund at his disposal. Essentially, the "embarrassment of riches" Guardiola has to deal with may not be a situation Thiago Alcantara would like to be a part of; especially if he is on the outside looking in with the German club.
At Manchester United, Alcantara would not have to face the issue of playing time. Newly appointed manager David Moyes will hope to christen Thiago Alcantara as his first major managerial signing at United. Moyes can offer the Spanish international immediate playing time at one of the biggest clubs in world football.
United is attempting to replace Paul Scholes (retired) in the midfield, and veteran leader Ryan Giggs may have one or two seasons left in the tank. The Red Devils' midfield situation is a real concern for the newly appointed manager. Darren Fletcher, Anderson and Michael Carrick have underperformed as of late; with all three battling individual injuries and reduced playing time under Sir Alex Ferguson.
There is no doubt that the signing of Thiago Alcantara would benefit both parties involved. Alcantara would shine in the United midfield and create a dangerous attacking threat behind Dutch striker Robin van Persie.
If committed, Thiago Alcantara would shine in the Premier League limelight. Very few Spanish international stars play in the Premier League with the exception of David Silva (Manchester City). Alcantara would easily attract Premier League fans by demonstrating the technical skills that the Barcelona system has provided him with.
The exposure provided by the Premier League would be unmatched for a young star like Alcantara. The Premier League is easily the most watched top flight football league in the world. While the German Bundesliga has attracted a wider audience after an all-German Champions League final, ratings are still likely to lag far behind the Premier League and La Liga.
If Alcantara were to join Bayern Munich, he would have to rely on strong performances in high-profile matches like the UEFA Champions League to receive significant exposure from global football fans.
2014 FIFA World Cup
With the FIFA World Cup less than a year away, there is no room for a poor club season for Thiago Alcantara. For most national teams, Alcantara would be a regular starter. Unfortunately for Alcantara, there are no guarantees of a spot on the Spanish squad for Brazil 2014.
While Alcantara just claimed Golden Player honors at the 2013 U-21 FIFA World Cup with Spain, he will need a strong club season to make the roster of a stacked Spanish squad. Spain have high hopes of repeating as World Cup champions next summer and are likely to keep their key midfield figures such as Xavi and Andres Iniesta in the starting XI. Alcantara will also have to battle other young Spanish stars such as Isco of Real Madrid for a spot on the Spanish side.
As previously stated, the media attention that the Premier League provides would highly benefit a player like Thiago Alcantara, who would be the cornerstone of an uber-popular Manchester United squad, in his pursuit of a World Cup spot. While Pep Guardiola may offer short-term success in the form of winning titles at Munich, he cannot guarantee Alcantara a starring role in the process.
Manchester United would provide Thiago with a platform to reach superstar status along with contesting for titles domestically and in the Champions League.