From the website totalBarça, Anoop Jethwa, a fully licensed coach in UK, talks exclusively to Stretty News about Thiago’s prospective move from FC Barcelona.
It was the final of the European U-21 tournament. Spain dominated from start to finish. Switzerland had a few chances to equalise but with ten minutes to go, the ref awarded Spain a free kick closer to the half way line than the goal. It looked as though a short pass would be the outcome, as it is so often from Spain’s national teams and Barcelona. 40 metres out. Thiago hovered over the ball. Next thing you know, the ball was hovering over Swiss keeper, Sommer, into the back of the net. 2-0. Game over.
Several months later, in what was to be Pep Guardiola’s last season as manager, Barcelona’s first home game of the new La Liga campaign came against Villarreal. Thiago Alcantara started along with the new signings of Fabregas and Sanchez. Sanchez scored one. Cesc got a goal and an assist. Thiago got a goal and two assists. Looking like he’d been in that side for years, the step up to the senior team was just something he took in his stride.
His talent was evident. Plenty of Barcelona fans, who were caught up in the repatriation project for Fabregas, were looking forward to seeing how Cesc would fit into Pep’s set up. However, there were just as many fans who wanted the money to be spent elsewhere, notably in central defence, not because they didn’t feel Fabregas would succeed, but because they were happy to allow the progressive continuation of Thiago’s development in the midfield department.
Fast forward to 2013.
It was the final of the European U21 tournament. Spain dominated from start to finish. Thiago Alcantara scored again in the final. This year he opened the scoring, and completed a first half hat trick. There was only one winner. However, there were two obvious stars of the tournament. One was Isco, whom Manchester United fans will be very happy to know, has signed for Real Madrid. The other was Thiago, whom Manchester United fans should be happy to know, will put playing time at the top of his priority list and therefore at the point of writing this, looks set to join Varela at the entrance of Old Trafford.
Wayne Rooney dropped into a midfield position towards the end of last season. With Van Persie making the striking role his and Paul Scholes retiring, it seemed that Rooney would have to settle with this new position. Fans of Rooney will point to the fabulous long passes he played to effectively switch the point of attack to the opposite wide man. Analysts of football will tell you that for every eye catching long ball he played, there were just as many misplaced short passes, meaning lost possession and an opportunity for the opponent to create on the counter.
It’s hardly any surprise that someone from a Barcelona website would point out the importance of possession, but it’s much more than that. It’s about the quality of possession. This past season, Cesc has been attributed as the player to be slightly more direct in getting the ball to the front players. No, this does not mean he was hitting long balls. It means he was playing accurate through balls for the likes of Sanchez or Pedro to run onto, while Messi dropped slighty deeper to offer another option. Xavi was far more conservative in his passing than in previous seasons gone by, which baffled a fair amount of fans. Keeping the ball without any purpose for attacking is a purely defensive strategy; a strategy that guarantees you will not score, although does not guarantee a clean sheet – Milan 2-0 Barcelona – for example.
Xavi is a world class legend, but I see a weakness in his inability to recover quickly enough. With one more season and then the World Cup, having just played a humongous amount of minutes for club and country, his involvement and ability to perform at the highest level on a consistent basis may drop slightly. However, with Neymar’s introduction to the left forward role, it’s possible to see Iniesta playing more central, and with Fabregas still around (and no, despite what the English media has been writing, he is not on the fringes of the team at Barcelona. Messi was the only outfield player to make more league appearances than him) playing time may be an issue for Thiago. Herein lies his decision to seek pastures new.
Good news for Manchester United? Yes. Bad news for Barcelona? Yes. It must be worth pointing out that at the time of writing, Cruyff has been very vocal in believing in Thiago’s talent. Cruyff and Pep are very well connected. And it seems that Pep and Thiago have been talking on the phone quite a bit of late while Moyes remains on holiday, but has instructed his new club to raid his old for Leighton Baines. What looked an odds on move from Catalonia to Carrington has been somewhat muddied by the Champions League winners, especially if Pep wants to introduce the 3-4-3 system.
SN would like to thank Jethwa for his time. Read more of his work at totalBarca.