Munich - As flattering as FC Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola’s “I need Thiago Alcantara’s qualities in midfield” comment was when he confirmed his pursuit of the FC Barcelona starlet last week, the player himself may have privately winced at being lauded so highly.
It was perhaps not surprising then, that the 22-year-old, flanked by the club’s top brass at his official presentation on Tuesday, sought to placate his new treble-winning colleagues ahead of any potentially awkward first conversations.
“I’ve come here to help my team-mates and to integrate myself into the squad,” the new No6 said in a packed media room at the club’s Säbener Strasse training complex in southern Munich. “I’ll play wherever the coach wants me to play and I’ll work hard to be fit to do so.”
So far so good. “There are few teams in the world as strong as FC Bayern,” he said, finding his stride. “It wasn’t an easy transfer - Barcelona are a great side and the city is my home. But I decided I wanted to experience something new: a different city and a fresh challenge.” Yet ‘Thiago’ - the name his shirt will bear - was not finished yet. “I’ll be learning German all season. With hard work I’ll get there bit by bit.”
Not-so whirlwind transfer
To the untrained eye, Alcantara’s move appeared to happen astonishingly quickly: Guardiola admitted his interest last Thursday and the player had put pen to paper less than a week later. The reality, predictably, was far more complex.
“The first call [from Guardiola] came at the end of the season,” Alcantara explained. “I’d thought about moving on and trying something new. Guardiola told me to go to the UEFA U-21 European Championships, to be with my team-mates and enjoy it. We spoke afterwards and now I’m here.” The 42-year-old Catalan’s influence in the whole process cannot be overstated. “We all know what kind of coach he is,” Alcantara continued. “As soon as I started training under him it was clear he was different. He’s always placed his trust in me and I’m grateful for that.”
Prevention the best cure
Indeed, further filling the Bayern dressing room with world-class talent has been a deliberate strategy, as chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge revealed: “I’m delighted with the fantastic quality we have in our squad. On the one hand it gives the coach a lot of options, which is what we want. But on the other it creates competition for places. We don’t want another trophyless year like we’ve had following successes in recent seasons.”
With the A-list ensemble, both on the pitch and the touchline, now fully in place, the Bundesliga and Europe should take heed - this current FC Bayern crop intend to rule the roost for a while yet.
Reporting from Säbener Straße: Jonathan Stockitt