Thiago Alcantara served timely notice that his is a talent that shouldn’t be confined to the Camp Nou subs bench, with a match-winning hat-trick for the Spanish Under 21s in the European U21 Championship final against Italy.
It was particularly timely as – if the Daily Mail are to be believed – reports in Spain suggest he has privately conceded he must leave Barca this summer. The 22-year-old academy product has an £18m release clause in his contract that is active until July 31st – after that the fee he would command will be sure to rise.
Freed from the suffocating greatnesses of Blaugrana bedfellows Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez in his nation’s Under 21 side, Alcantara was able to show just how much of a leader he can be in the middle of the park, acting as the main attacking conduit for the junior Furia Roja.
Thiago made just 15 starts for Barcelona in the league last term as he fought for scraps behind Iniesta and Xavi and with Cesc Fabregas – still his senior in the Camp Nou midfield pecking order – suggesting rumours that he would consider a move back to the Premier League “absurd”, a regular first-team spot still seems some way away.
With this in mind the choice between his two most commonly touted admirers should be based around getting a relatively-guaranteed starting berth.
Former Barca pedagogue Josep Guardiola may have taken the reins at Bayern Munich, but they have a core midfield trio of the very highest quality in Bastian Schweinsteiger, Javi Martinez and Toni Kroos – the latter would likely be in direct competition with Alcantara for the senior attacking midfielder role.
United’s midfield arrangement may be somewhat more accommodating for the young Spaniard, with only Michael Carrick a guaranteed starter in the middle of the park. Amongst his potential positional rivals, Tom Cleverley is of far from commensurate quality, whilst Shinji Kagawa has yet to firmly establish himself.
The Old Trafford club are 2/1 favourites to defend their Premier League title in 2013/14.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.