Italy-born Thiago Alcantara is one heck of a talent. His ability to retain possession and cut through a stubborn defence is on par with some of the best in the game. So much so, that many considered him the natural heir to Spanish golden boy Andres Iniesta.
"He is the only player I want. It'll be him or no one." Those were the words of soon to be Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola, expressing his desire to sign Thiago on arrival to the Bavarian capital in 2013. His wish was granted but things haven’t panned out as planned.
The 25-year-old creator has struggled with injuries since his move from Catalonia three years ago. He’s had to recover from three serious knee injuries in succession that ruled him out for a year until March 2015. This season he’s featured more frequently, managing 33 appearances in all competitions for the German powerhouse.
Yet even this term, Thiago hasn’t been anywhere near as consistent as what many expected from him- Guardiola included. He’s started a number of games from the bench, the most striking being the recent Champions League return of Atletico Madrid.
It was quite a statement from the Bayern Coach to leave Thiago out, the midfielder signed as the intended centrepiece of his side. Desperately seeking his first Champions League trophy, Guardiola instead opted to recall Thomas Muller to the starting line-up.
Even when seeking a goal, the Bayern coach overlooked Thiago, instead calling on youngster Kingsley Coman for inspiration. It seemed that Guardiola hadn’t forgiven Thiago for his part in Saul Niguez’s solo goal in the first leg.
The midfielder has also struggled to perform alongside box-to-box midfielder Arturo Vidal. Their styles don’t seem to complement each other, with Thiago performing better next to an anchoring midfielder in Xabi Alonso or Joshua Kimmich.
If selected the Spain national side, however, he would more likely make up a three man midfield with Sergio Busquets anchoring. That would enable Thiago the freedom to impact the game further up the field. The question is whether Del Bosque has faith in his ability.
He was included in the squad for past friendlies against Italy and Romania and has shown moments of brilliance this season. He provided a fine assist for Robert Lewandowski in the victory over Augsburg and scored two goals in their thrashing of Werder Bremen.
His Bayern teammate Douglas Costa described him as “magic” earlier this year, after Thiago scored his first goal of the season. It’s those moments of ‘magic’ that will be hard to ignore for the Spanish Coach. Will he get the call up? Probably. Another question is whether he can remain injury free.