Slotting seamlessly into a midfield alongside the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm and Mario Götze is no mean feat, but Thiago Alcantara has long since proven he has what it takes to be a success at the Allianz Arena.
Like father, like son
Indeed, when Pep Guardiola stated shortly after his appointment that 2012/13 treble-winners FC Bayern München “needed Thiago's qualities in midfield”, many wondered whether the young midfielder would be able to live up to expectations in Munich. Despite his tender age, however, Thiago has become used to rubbing shoulders with some of the best in the business.
Thiago Alcantara do Nascimento has football in his blood: Born in Italy to Brazilian parents, Thiago grew up watching his father Mazinho, a member of Brazil’s FIFA World Cup-winning squad of 1994, play for local outfit U.S. Lecce. When Thiago was just five years old, Mazinho took the family to Spain where the youngster made his own first steps as a footballer.
Starting out at Calician side Ureca de Vigo, he joined Kelme CF - a club renowned for producing young Spanish talent - in 2001. It didn’t take long for Thiago to attract attention from some of Spain’s biggest clubs and in 2005, the then 14-year-old joined FC Barcelona’s youth system.
Thiago progressed quickly through the ranks at the Catalan giants and was promoted to Barcelona’s B team at the beginning of the 2008/09 campaign, making 25 appearances in his first season with the second string. He made his professional debut in a 2-1 defeat to Malaga CF on 17 May 2009, but the young starlet had to wait a little while longer to fully establish himself with the Barcelona seniors.
After making 59 appearances for the reserves, he was finally promoted to the first team in the summer of 2010 and although starting opportunities were at a premium to begin with, he was included in 23 of the 38 matchday squads during the 2010/11 La Liga season, highlighting then-Barcelona boss Guardiola’s faith in the youngster.
Off the mark in spectacular fashion
Having played a pivotal role in Spain’s UEFA European Under-21 Championship success in 2011, Thiago made a total of 45 appearances for Barca in all competitions the following campaign, establishing himself as one of the brightest midfield prospects on the planet. Though often forced to play second fiddle to the likes of Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta, Thiago managed seven goals in 67 appearances.
He signed a four-year contract with Bayern on 14 July 2013, making his debut in the 4-2 DFL Supercup defeat to Borussia Dortmund and opening his Bundesliga account in spectacular fashion with a superb scissors kick against VfB Stuttgart on Matchday 17. Thiago made 25 appearances during his first season in Bavaria, but a succession of knee injuries has hampered the Spaniard's progress, also forcing him to miss the 2014 World Cup. However, now fit again and injury free, Thiago looks set to be a mainstay in Munich for many years to come.