Thiago Alcantara on Pep Guardiola's influence and Bayern Munich's title aspirations
Thiago Alcantara has hailed the impact former coach Pep Guardiola has had on his career, and says Bayern Munich still draw on some of the Catalan's ideas to this day.
Thiago, 28, got his first-team break under Guardiola at Barcelona, and was later cherry-picked by the now Manchester City boss to follow him to Bayern, sparking a period of dominance which could see the record champions end the current 2018/19 campaign with a seventh successive Bundesliga title.
"Pep Guardiola took me from the youth to first-team and helped me a lot along the way," Thiago told DAZN. "A young player coming into any first-team has to learn a lot. With him as a coach, you learn faster and better. He was a huge help right from the beginning, here at Bayern as well.
"He left huge footprints of his work, because he and his ideas shaped our team enormously. You felt it on the pitch. We still use things in certain match situations that he taught us.
"He is one of the best coaches in the world, if not the best, and I’m sure that he will give football a lot more in the coming years."
Following Guardiola's three-season stint at Bayern, Thiago played, and won Bundesliga titles, under Italian Carlo Ancelotti and returning 2012/13 treble-winning strategist Jupp Heynckes. During Ancelotti's tenure, the Spaniard operated predominantly as a No.10, while Heynckes used him more as a No.6 - the role he has also been assigned by current coach Niko Kovac. Advanced or deep-lying, the results have almost always been the same: success.
"I like to attack, but I’m also happy to defend," explained Thiago, who became the second fastest non-German Bayern player to post 100 Bundesliga wins in last weekend's 1-0 victory against Werder Bremen (122 appearances). "In the six position, I have to defend, but I can pick up the ball earlier to be more involved in the build-up play. Therefore, I can’t score or assist as many goals as I would playing in the eight or 10 because I don’t get as much space on the ball.
"I think it’s been good for us all to be able to take something positive from each of the coaches we’ve had. Whether it’s tiki-taka or something else: the difference is to have control of the game in every moment. That means, when we have the ball, we have to be aware that we still have to defend well. And when the opponent has the ball, we have to be ready to force errors and take advantage of them. Dominance is the most important thing to me. If we’re dominant, then we’ll have success."
Watch: How Thiago pulls the strings for Bayern
Although Bayern haven't been quite as dominant this season as they perhaps have in recent campaigns - the record champions have had their previous six Bundesliga titles sewn up by Matchday 31 at the latest - Thiago is optimistic they will hold off the challenge of second-placed Borussia Dortmund - one point adrift with four rounds of fixtures remaining - during the run-in.
“We didn’t have the best attitude to everything between September and November, when we gave up a lot of points with our own mistakes," Thiago recalled. "But then we worked very hard and began to climb and climb back up the table.
"A few weeks ago we were eight points behind Dortmund, and now we're one point ahead. I’m optimistic that we'll be champions because we’ve done it in the last six years, we're on a really good run of form and we know what to expect."
Why are Bayern better with Thiago?
We take a closer look at what the Spanish string-puller brings to the record champions.
How did Kovac turn Bayern’s season around?
After hunting down Dortmund, Bayern won the league and cup double - how did they manage it?
Martinez, Thiago and James pulling Bayern's strings
Bayern Munich's recent form resurgence has very much to do with the performances of their Spanish-speaking midfield trio.