So Thiago Alcántara has finally decided to leave Barcelona and try his luck with Bayern München. At one level one can understand his moving – he will be paid a lot more money and he knows Bayern’s new coach, Pep Guardiola. However this is a move that does not make a lot of sense for me. Thiago has stated that he wants to play more often and more regularly. A natural wish for any player. Yet it is not at all clear that he will get more playing time with Bayern than he would have had staying at Barcelona. After all, if he had not missed seven weeks through a serious injury he almost certainly would have played the 60% matches and minutes stipulated in his contract. There is also the not insignificant fact that he is leaving Barcelona to join the current holders of the Champions League, not to mention double winners in Germany. Bayern are a fair old team with strength and skill in abundance. They didn’t get to where they are now without some very good midfielders. A midfield which they have already strengthened by signing Germany’s rising attacking midfielder – Mario Götze from rivals Borussia Dortmund. When you factor in that the oldest player in the Bayern midfield is Schweinsteiger, who at 31, is two years younger than Xavi, then it is not clear how Thiago is going to find it easier to break into the Bayern team than the Barcelona team. I just get the feeling that there is something more afoot than first meets the eye about this one. Perhaps Thiago simply does not get on well with Tito Vilanova, the Barcelona coach. We will have to wait and see how well Thiago prospers in Bavaria.
The leaving of Thiago will of course have a knock on effect on the Barcelona squad and in particular the first team. Most people expected that Thiago would play a lot more often this coming season, especially as Xavi is getting to the veteran stage of his career. One player who will benefit is Sergi Roberto who has already been promoted to the first team squad. He can now expect to play a few more matches than otherwise. However the player who is most likely to benefit from Thiago’s departure is Cesc Fàbregas. With Thiago away and the arrival of Neymar to boost the attack, I would expect Cesc to be employed more often in his natural midfield role with a view to taking over from Xavi in a year or two. Which kind of makes it surprising that Manchester United are reported to have made a bid for Cesc. Quite why he would want to leave Barcelona now when the way is clearer than before for him to find a regular role in the team is not obvious. All this of course is in the supposition that Barcelona do not use the money from Thiago to buy another midfielder. It is more likely they will use this pot, between €20-25 million, to finally sign a reliable central defender to take over from Puyol. Time will tell, there is still a long way before the transfer deadline is passed.