Breaking Down What Thiago Alcantara Would Bring to Manchester City

Rob Pollard@@RobPollard_Featured ColumnistMay 11, 2016

Bayern Munich's Spanish midfielder Thiago Alcantara heads the ball during the training session on the eve of the Champions League quarter-final, first-leg football match between Bayern Munich and Benfica Lisbon in Munich, southern Germany, on April 4, 2016. / AFP / CHRISTOF STACHE        (Photo credit should read CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images)

The scale of the revolution Manchester City will undergo this summer isn’t yet known, but it’s likely to be significant. Pep Guardiola will arrive and set about raising the quality of City’s game. Increasing the intensity of their pressing, passing and movement will be his primary task. Given the way the side have played in recent months, that won’t be easy.

To do this, he will need his fitness coach, Lorenzo Buenaventura, to work the players hard in the pre-season. He’ll need the squad to buy into his ideas quickly and passionately. And he’ll need to bring new players in, the kind who are capable of playing the way the Spaniard wants.

Possession is key. Contrary to the trend sweeping the Premier League this year, Guardiola wants his side to keep the ball, pass sharply and make the opposition work intensely to try to reclaim it. If you do lose it, pressing in numbers as high up the pitch as possible is demanded.

The current City side are capable of that kind of football—but only in flashes. Whether they simply don’t have the personnel to pull it off with more regularity or their training sessions haven’t been good enough isn’t clear. Either way, Guardiola has a job on his hands altering the team’s culture.

Renato Sanches’ move to Bayern Munich may help him. According to German publication Kicker (h/t freelance journalist Alex Chaffer), it could mean Thiago Alcantara will be made available. If he is, Guardiola, a huge fan of the midfielder, is likely to make a move, and if he can land him, he will be one sizeable step closer to assembling a squad capable of playing in his image.

Alex Chaffer @AlexChaffer

Kicker are reporting that Thiago - who is advised by Pep Guardiola's brother - could follow Pep to Manchester City this summer.

Alcantara possesses everything Guardiola wants from a midfielder. He’s tactically astute and capable of operating in a number of different midfield roles, from a deep-lying position to a position closer to the forwards.

He’s also technically assured—a wonderful passer of the ball who rarely gives it away and can spot a runner and find them with ease.

Frankfurts defender Carlos Zambrano (L) and Bayern Munich's Spanish midfielder Thiago Alcantara (R) vie for the ball during the German Bundesliga first division football match between FC Bayern Munich and Eintracht Frankfurt in Munich, southern Germany, o

Guardiola appreciates his talent. He gave him his debut at Barcelona in 2009 and then made him one of his first signings when he took over at Bayern Munich in 2013. At the Camp Nou, he made 77 appearances (30 as a sub) and never really felt like a first-team regular, despite his obvious quality.

He won four La Liga titles, one Champions League and one Spanish Super Cup—but it was time for him to play a more prominent role. His move to Bayern allowed him to become one of Europe’s finest midfielders.

Guardiola and Alcantara represent a footballing romance like few others. Guardiola's intensity in everything he does is reflected in the way Alcantara plays football. When he arrived, Guardiola said, “He is the only player I want. It’ll be him or no one." The faith he showed in Alcantara has been repaid.

He's been superb in Bavaria. He's an orchestrator, a player who moves so freely and beautifully, shifting the ball in different directions and weaving patterns that leave the opposition flummoxed. He sees the game so clearly.

His attitude has also been praised. In December, having just returned from injury, Alcantara made himself available to play a game against Ingolstadt, despite it being a risk to his fitness. Guardiola was quoted as saying by Bild (h/t FourFourTwo):

Thiago approached me on Friday evening and told me that he was ready to play again, either as a starter or coming off the bench.

I like his attitude. I know that it would have been better for him to have an extra week of rest. But that is football. Coaches never have time. And we have very few players available at the moment.

I did perhaps have a bit of fear that he would get injured again. Players often have to take risks, and so do I. It is impossible to always be 100 per cent match fit at this level.

We needed Thiago against Ingolstadt. He brings something extra on the pitch. He always wants to have the ball.

The appreciation is mutual. "All of you know how Pep Guardiola is as a manager...he is the best coach in history," Alcantara said in February, when the news of his manager's exit was confirmed.

"I have shared great moments with him and bad moments but you know how somebody is in bad moments and he always was there."

Whether City will land him is difficult to say. Bayern Munich are an incredibly well-run football club—their double swoop for Sanches and Mats Hummels, confirmed on Tuesday, is proof of that. They have consistently said they won't be pushed around by City, and it feels like they would see selling the midfielder to Guardiola as an admission of defeat.

But if the Sanches signing has opened up the possibility of an exit, you can be sure Guardiola will want him. Taking City from their current position to a side genuinely capable of challenging for both the Premier League and Champions League won't be easy. Bringing in a player of Alcantara's quality is the kind of move he needs to make. 

Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2015/16 season. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow him on Twitter @RobPollard.


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