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A Closed Chapter: Thiago Alcantara

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Admit it! This was probably you when it was announced Thiago was set to join Bayern Munich.  It just didn’t seem fair. For weeks, we were set to sign Thiago but it never happened. So what really happened? Read more to find out.

Days after Thiago signed, it was revealed from the player himself how Pep was the crucial factor in his decision to go to Bayern.  Thiago’s quotes made it seem like we were never in for him and Bayern was his one and only choice.  Yet Thiago’s father and his image rights holder both said differently.  So was Thiago lying about our interest? Did we ever initiate any interest in Thiago?  Was the Spanish and English press lying to us the whole time? How come Bayern were able to conclude the deal so quickly? Does Barca saying we made no official contact mean anything?

Thiago quotes:

Let’s start with the Thiago quotes on United’s interest because there’s a minor distinction which was missed in the translated version of his interview.  It’s a shame more attention wasn’t brought towards it because how you interpret this whole story could be largely shaped by these words. So let’s dive in.

Thiago stated: “The truth is that in no moment did United come to us and talk to us. It came from the press, it was always a lie.”

But his father said that he was close to joining United but couldn’t reach an agreement so what’s all this about? Let’s clear up a few things.  Mazinho is NOT Thiago’s agent.  It just seems like it because he’s the one you’ll usually see quoted in the press talking on Thiago’s behalf. Thiago’s agent is actually Pep’s brother, Pere Guardiola.  Mazinho’s role is like a personal advisor to Thiago.

Secondly, where it says “us” should read as “me or my representative”.  Who is Thiago’s representative? Well we just established it as Pere Guardiola.  It’s entirely possible that Thiago sees his father as his father and not necessarily as his representative.  It’s slightly confusing since Mazinho has spoken to the media on Thiago’s behalf and made noise about his son’s potential exit from Barca.  You would think under these circumstances he’s being a representative.  However, Thiago only cited one representative and we know his legal representative is Pere.  We also know according to Graham Hunter, that there was interest from Manchester United as he was the one who put United in contact with Mazinho a few years ago. This makes sense as both Craig Norwood & Alistair Fergusson, who are privy to United-related information, both confirmed that Mazinho was in Manchester to speak with the club about Thiago. So what does this mean overall? United may not have contacted Thiago or Pere directly but Mazinho was certainly involved and acting on Thiago’s behalf so we know the interest was there.

United’s interest and contacting Barca

As I stated earlier, United have been tracking Thiago for some time. In 2011, we tried to sign him and received a flat-out “NO” from Barca as they were intent on keeping him.  When Thiago’s release clause dropped to around £15m, it was no coincidence we were one of the first clubs to be linked with him.

In June, news came out that Manchester United were interested in both Cesc Fabregas and Thiago.  The Fabregas interest seemed strong as Denis Irwin, club ambassador, publicly stated we were looking to bring the Spanish midfielder to Old Trafford.  At this time, David Moyes had not officially taken over from Sir Alex Ferguson which seemed to stall any proceedings with the Thiago move.  James Ducker from the Times reported United were hoping to seal the Thiago deal before leaving for the Asia tour.  It was later revealed from journalists such as Jonathan Northcroft, a good friend of Moyes, who shared a meal with Moyes in Malaysia, that although we were interested in Thiago, he wasn’t a priority for Moyes compared to Fabregas. Sounds like a possible explanation for why, from United’s perspective, the deal stalled giving Pep an opportunity to contact Thiago again and we all know what happened there.

So what’s this about Barca saying we didn’t make official contact with them? Does it matter? Technically it doesn’t.  From what I understand and have read, if you’re the buying club and you activate a player’s release clause, the only communication between the two clubs would be for the release papers. Since the Spanish FA acts as an intermediary if the buying club triggers a player’s release clause, there really does not need to be any contact between the buying club and selling club.  The Spanish FA along with the relevant tax officers and lawyers would handle the VAT process. The only way for official contact to mean something is when you’re negotiating a fee. In our case, it looks like we were trying to handle paying the release clause and VAT but negotiations stalled when Mazinho wanted the playing time clause in Thiago’s contract.  Something which has caused debate between some fans. If United don’t sign Fabregas, would agreeing to the playing time clause been such a bad idea? A discussion for another day.

Bayern

When Pep said it was Thiago or no one, you just knew it was over. It’s rare for managers to come out like that if they’re not confident of a deal happening. Barca fans sensed it was over as well as they said when Pep comes out in this way, a deal is usually all but done.  Bayern decided to agree a fee with Barca and by doing so, kept the relations between the clubs amicable. Even though it didn’t appear Bayern were interested, once Thiago made his decision, Barca weren’t going to get in his way. As Thiago told RAC1, Barca didn’t make much of an effort to keep the player.  Since both parties were for the deal, it was concluded quickly.

Conclusion

So looking back what should we, as United fans make of missing out on Thiago?  We witnessed a player choose loyalty to his favorite coach over a club where he would probably enjoy more playing time. Pep will probably give Thiago a lot of minutes but looking at the quality in Bayern’s midfield, it’s hard to see Thiago being a first choice starter either.  I don’t think we can really blame Moyes or Woodward on this deal. I strongly believe if Sir Alex was still here, we would have gotten Thiago.  This is not a critique on Moyes at all.  However, I don’t think the managerial change did us any favors either. Since Sir Alex was here when we first submitted a bid for Thiago in 2011, it’s fair to speculate he was more keen on Thiago than Moyes. Nothing much wrong with that. You could argue Fabregas is a better signing for Moyes as Cesc has prior EPL experience so there’s less of a risk. Moyes officially took over on July 1 and when he came into the office, I don’t think sanctioning a deal for Thiago was his top priority. He had many things to take care of. One of them was attending to Wayne Rooney and attempting to convince the player to stay.

It’s no fun missing out on a top talent like Thiago.  He looks set to be one of the best midfielders in the world and it’s always an honor to say you had one of those players in your team.  Being 22, he was the perfect age for our club as we like to develop young talents into world class stars.  Unfortunately, he chose to join a coach he feels he owes part of his career to and who gave him a chance in the first place.  We have little to be ashamed about.

Thanks for reading.

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6 Responses to “A Closed Chapter: Thiago Alcantara”

  1. dave says:

    waste of a good article. Closed the book on this one the day he signed for Munich. Should have done a write up on something else.

  2. Eddie says:

    Don’t worry dave I will. I just wanted to bring some clarity to it.

  3. k says:

    I love it. have fun with your midfield

  4. Jola says:

    Good article, although i still blame Moyes, Thiago was obviously the more realistic target and by far the cheaper one, if we’re talking value for money there’s no comparison, 15 million vs whats probably gonna be in the region of 35 million (assuming something materialises which it probably wont) Moyes should have made the quick swoop on Thiago, contacted the player and got it sorted before Guardiola ever had the chance to do it. We managed to sign Varela before Moyes officially took over, we could have got Thiago. Moyes’ fault

  5. Andy says:

    @ K
    Did you love it when that midfield won the league by 11 points this last season?

  6. Eddie says:

    Jola, Moyes couldnt do anything in June because he wasn’t officially the manager. The time to sign Thiago was before the Euros but I guess we thought we had a chance to seal it afterwards. At some point after the Euros, Pep called Thiago and according to the player, that’s when he made the decision.

    Varela was different as he was a Sir Alex signing technically. I agree. I think we should have went harder for Thiago but I can see why Moyes wanted to get Fabregas. Moyes isn’t the one who seals the deals anyway. That’s Woodward

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