Thiago Alcantara: 10 things on the retired Bayern Munich and Spain pass master


He was eligible to represent three countries, but chose to play for Spain. He was forged in Barcelona's academy, but chose to make a name for himself with Bayern Munich. After a career of big decisions, Thiago Alcantara has made another: to hang up his boots.

bundesliga.com lays out everything that made one of the best midfielders in modern football tick.

1) Three men and a baby

Thiago might as well have been born with a ball under his arm. His father, Iomar do Nascimento, better known as Mazinho, was a member of the Brazil squad that won the 1994 World Cup in the USA. Although he played in every game of that tournament, he would be remembered more for something other than his exploits on the field.

In the quarter-final match against the Netherlands, legendary striker Bebeto scored Brazil's second goal in a 3-2 victory. Overcome with emotion, he ran to the side of the pitch where Mazinho and Romario joined in on a choreographed celebration that became a viral sensation at a time when the internet wasn't even a thing: the three men swung their arms in unison to honour Bebeto's recently-born baby, who grew up to become a footballer himself.

Thiago's father Mazinho (r.) won the 1994 World Cup alongside Brazil legends Romario (l.) and Bebeto (c.). - imago sportfotodienst

2) International man of mystery

It would be fair to describe Thiago as a multicultural person. His upbringing was bound to his father's playing career so he moved around A LOT. He was born in San Pietro Vernotico, Italy. He got his start in football in Rio, Brazil, in Flamengo's academy. He then moved to Spain and later returned to Rio before signing for Barcelona in 2005 aged 14.

He would've been able to represent Brazil or Italy at international level, yet he opted to pledge allegiance to Spain despite his father's wishes. Thiago started playing for La Roja at U16 level and never looked back. "I have lived and grown up here in Spain", explained the talented midfielder when asked for an explanation.

Thiago Alcantara (l.) could have played for three countries, he opted for Spain. - AFP/Getty Images

3) Why always him?

Did you know that Mario Balotelli almost signed for Barcelona as a youngster? The mercurial Italian striker had a trial with the blaugranes in 2006, where he quickly befriended Thiago. Although 'Super Mario' did not sign for the Catalan giants, he clearly kept a good impression of his friend.

After Thiago's debut for Spain in a friendly against Italy that ended in a 2-1 defeat, the Spanish press were talking to their newest international. Balotelli spotted the cameras and decided to "videobomb" the Spanish midfielder to tell everyone watching on live TV that his friend was "el más grande", the greatest.

"This guy is the greatest!" Mario Balotelli (l.) is a big admirer of Thiago (r.). - tve

4) Made in La Masia

Thiago's steel was forged in the same fire as midfield giants Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernández. He made his first team debut in the 2008/09 season, during Pep Guardiola's first (and arguably most successful) season at the Camp Nou, but he really established himself with the senior side only three years later.

Although he was living up to his potential by the 2012/13 season, he shocked everyone by choosing to sign for Bayern, where a certain Josep Guardiola was due to take charge the following year. Even after leaving Catalonia without looking back, he remains close to former first-team and academy teammates like Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and Marc Bartra, who also played in the Bundesliga for Borussia Dortmund.

5) Blaugrana Brother

Another former Barcelona teammate who Thiago certainly remains close with is his brother Rafinha. The younger of the Alcantara brothers also plays as a central midfielder, but represented Brazil at international level. Their mother Valeria must have had a really hard time staying neutral when the World Cup comes.

Thiago and brother Rafinha are integral to the Alcantara Family Foundation. - imago images / Marca

6) A golden debut goal

Thiago's first goal for the Bavarian giants came in the final of the 2013 Club World Cup against Moroccan side Raja Casablanca. His strike ensured a 2-0 lead that stood until the end, giving Guardiola his second trophy in his opening six months in charge after beating Chelsea to the European Super Cup earlier that year. He would go on to score 31 competitive goals and record 37 assists in 235 appearances in all competitions for the record German champions.

7) Guardiola's legacy

Despite the Catalan coach that brought him to the Bundesliga leaving for Manchester City in 2016, Thiago stayed at Bayern. Even though he had lost his mentor, the Spaniard's progression was not halted; quite the opposite. Under Carlo Ancelotti in 2016/17, Thiago had arguably his best season in the Bundesliga. He played a total of 2,291 minutes throughout the year, almost double the previous campaign, and managed a career high of six goals and five assists. He did outstrip that in the 2018/19 campaign, playing over 100 minutes more to be a major part of a season in which Bayern dominated domestically.

"What can I say about Thiago? He’s a coach's dream," said current Bayern boss Niko Kovač at the end of the club's 2018/19 double-winning campaign. "We’ve got a massive pool of exceptional midfielders, but he’s the heartbeat of our midfield, a player who can do everything with the ball."

Pep Guardiola made the signing of Thiago Alcantara his top priority when he arrived at Bayern in 2013. - CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP via Getty Images

8) T for trophies'

In each of the seven seasons Thiago spent at Bayern, he helped the club win the Bundesliga title. There were also four DFB Cup triumphs and the treble-winning season of 2019/20. What a way to sign off before heading to Liverpool to team up with another Bundesliga icon, Jürgen Klopp.

Watch: Thiago's top 5 Bayern goals

9) Santa's little helper

Thiago is known the world over for his passing range and no-look passes, but even the greats get their wires crossed. In a Bundesliga match against RB Leipzig on 21 December 2016, the Bayern No.6 collected possession in midfield before turning into space and playing the ball out wide just as an image of Santa Claus (wearing red) appeared on the electronic advertising board on the left side of the Allianz Arena. Juan Bernat scampered back to keep the ball in play and save his teammate's blushes, but that didn't stop Bayern's social media channels using the footage and jokingly announcing the signing of St. Nick.

10) Alcantara foundation

Along with his brother, father, mother and wife, Julia, Thiago is an active founding member of the Alcantara Family Foundation, which uses football as a way of educating and integrating young children in Brazil, Germany and Spain. "The values of sport can be extended to many areas of life," writes Thiago on the foundation's official website. Now, he'll have more time to devote to his family's foundation having retired from playing at the age of 33.