Munich - He was the man Pep Guardiola desperately wanted, and got, upon his arrival in Munich last summer. A player Guardiola must now do without as FC Bayern head down the final straight of the season, lacking their cutting edge in the words of the Catalan coach: "Without him, there's a little less of us."
In 11 Bundesliga games with Thiago Alcantara in the starting XI, FC Bayern scored an average of 3.4 goals. In the other 17 games, that average fell to 'only' 2.6 goals. bundesliga.com analyses where Bayern become "a little less" without the Spaniard.
The 22-year-old celebrated his comeback from injury on Matchday three, and it instantly became clear just why Guardiola had put his name right at the top of his wish list after landing in Munich. After a three-month injury absence, he soon developed into a ball-spreading machine in the Bayern midfield, but on Saturday against Hoffenheim, he suffered a setback: knee ligament damage in his right knee, and a six-to-eight-week break.
"It's a catastrophic time for this to happen," said team-mate Thomas Müller. "Just when we have some important matches." The first of those comes on Tuesday night against Manchester United FC in the UEFA Champions League, but in the worst-case scenario, Thiago could miss the entire rest of the season, potential DFB Cup and Champions League finals included.
"Fortunately, we have a squad which can compensate for his loss," said Bayern's CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. Indeed, it seems that nothing can knock Bayern off course this season, not even a serious injury to a pillar of their side. In the nine Bundesliga games Bayern played during another of Thiago's injury-enforced absences in the first half of the season, they still won eight and drew one.
In his 16 league appearances to date, Thiago has scored two and set up a further four, playing a particularly pivotal role in the 2-1 win over VfB Stuttgart, when he sprang from the bench to set up the equaliser and grab a spectacular winner.
In his absence, like many times in the Champions League this season, Bastian Schweinsteiger (two goals in five games) and Toni Kroos (involved in three goals) have already shown they can boss the midfield equally well. Their record on the European stage actually eclipses Thiago's: Schweinsteiger has had 108, Kroos 113 and Thiago 107 touches on average on the continent.
Domestically, though, nobody can keep up with the average 120 touches Thiago has per 90 minutes in the Bundesliga. Schweinsteiger has 107 and Kroos 105, but replace him they will, and with further candidates Philipp Lahm and Javier Martinez, even Thiago can be covered for in this all-conquering Bayern ensemble.
Check out Thiago's spectacular winner against Stuttgart, courtesy of the Bundesliga's official YouTube channel.