Back to his best after missing over a year of action because of injury, the 24-year-old made a triumphant and highly emotional return to football in the spring of 2015. bundesliga.com presents ten little-known facts about the livewire Spain international...
For Alcantara, there never seemed to be much doubt that he would pursue a career in football, and it having a father who was also a FIFA World Cup winner certainly helps. "I just want to be a footballer," he said when interviewed by portalbarra.com.br at the age of eleven. His dad Mazinho (l.), who won the World Cup with Brazil in 1994, unsurprisingly pointed him in the right direction from a very early age. "The first gift I ever received was a football," Alcantara continued. "I spent all my time playing with it.”
Despite his young age, Italian-born Alcantara already has a wide range of life and footballing experience. Having moved back and forth between Brazil and Spain due to his father's footballing engagements, Alcantara played for Spanish sides Ureca de Vigo and Kelme CF, as well as having two stints at CR Flamengo in Brazil, before joining Barcelona's La Masia youth academy at the age of 14 in 2005.
Thiago's right forearm has a tattoo of a baby boy playing by a beach under a star-filled sky - with a football, of course. It's a copy of a photograph taken by his parents in Italy when Alcantara was 14 months old and serves as a reminder of where he grew up. As he revealed to El Mundo Magazine, the art is also a testament to the passion he had for the game as soon as he could kick a ball.
Alcantara's style of play is very much a result of the many influences he has had over the years. "I'm lucky to benefit from a great mixture," he told Reuters. "I have my dad's Brazilian roots, and in Spain I was introduced to a better organisation on the pitch and gained a tactical understanding." His biggest influence, however, remains Pep Guardiola: "He'll change the way you think about football," Thiago told bundesliga.com. "That's how it was with me."
Despite being born in Italy to Brazilian parents and having spent most of his life in Catalonia, Alcantara calls Galicia his home, the autonomous community in northwest of Spain, from where he moved to Barca at the age of 14. He also made the choice t a young age to represent Spain over Brazil and Italy at international level. By contrast, his younger brother Rafinha, who plays for Barcelona, featured for Spain at U-16 to U-19 level, before switching to play for Brazil’s U-20 side.
Together with his girlfriend Julia Vigas, who, incidentally, co-owns a hotel, Thiago is quite the celebrity in Germany. He was already a well-know social media personality when he arrived in 2013, and he soon became the first Bundesliga player to pass one million Twitter followers later that year. He currently has over 2.5 million and a similar number of likes on his Facebook page, numbers that would surely be higher but for the injuries that caused him to miss not just a year of domestic action but also…
...the 2014 FIFA World Cup. After helping Bayern to a 23rd league title in record time with a victory, Thiago then damaged knee ligaments in the 3-3 draw with TSG 1899 Hoffenheim on 30 March 2014. He was initially ruled out for eight weeks, but aggravated the injury in May, missing the defeat to Real Madrid CF in the Champions League semi-finals, the DFB Cup win over Dortmund and the World Cup in his father's homeland. On finally making his comeback, he said: "I just have to enjoy this."
Perhaps it was the Brazilian blood in him, or the fact that he spent his formative years at Barcelona, but Thiago's ambition wasn't just to make a living from professional football. He wants to leave a legacy too, as he told news agency Reuters in 2011: "My dream is to assert myself in the world of football [but] I want to be a player people will always remember. A player that the people recognise as someone who entertains them."
Mario Götze arrived at Bayern in the same transfer window as Thiago, but the former's transfer was agreed before Guardiola's arrival. Pep wanted to sign one player: "Thiago or nobody." A player made in Guardiola's own image, it is no surprise Thiago has enjoyed such success under Guardiola, winning a staggering 14 major titles in four seasons at former club Barcelona and three in his first season in Munich, scoring in the final of the 2013 FIFA Club World Cup in December 2013.
Life is almost always about the beautiful game for Thiago. "Football is what makes me happy," he told Reuters. "Whenever I play, I forget everything around me and even myself. I need football around me, that's what makes things complete." And in an emotional interview after he made his first-team comeback against Borussia Dortmund in April 2015, he said: "Football is more than a game - it's my life", before sharing his relief at being fit again on Twitter.