Rewind to January 2013.
It has just been announced that Pep Guardiola will take over from Jupp Heynckes as Bayern Munich manager at the end of the season.
Almost immediately, the ex-Barcelona manager is linked with raiding his former club for some of their most talented players to stamp his own identity on the German side including Thiago Alcantara.
But the 22-year-old midfielder distanced himself from a move and insisted that he had no plans to leave for Munich.
“I am here in Barçelona, playing for the best club in the world, so I don’t plan to leave for Bayern,” Alcantara told reporters at a press conference.
“It is really good news that Pep Guardiola has come back to football.
“He made history at this club and he gave too many things to football. Now, he can do the best for Bayern.”
“He will focus on young players and, although each club has its own style, they can do it, because Bayern has many very skilled players.”
“Thiago is the only player I want, that’s what I told them [Bayern board]. It will be him or no one.” Pep Guardiola
Today, Guardiola labelled Thiago as the only player he wanted to sign this summer as the 22-year-old’s transfer from Barcelona took a twist.
So, does Thiago still have no plans to leave for Bayern? A lot has changed between now and then.
The Bavarian side finished the season as treble winners, trouncing Barcelona 7-0 over two legs in the Champions League on the way, and Thiago’s release clause was dropped to €18 million due a lack of game time in Catalonia.
The midfielder also enjoyed a fantastic U21 European Championships that culminated in victory with Thiago being named Player of the Tournament.
He now looks set to leave Barcelona and on paper, Munich ticks a lot of the boxes. In Guardiola, Thiago would be playing under the manager who knows his game inside out and he’d be joining the champions of Europe, which all sounds rosy.
But if game time is Thiago’s prerogative, then a move to Bavaria over United isn’t logical.
At Munich, Thiago would be in precisely the same situation as he is at Barcelona in the pecking order. He would have to fight for his spot in the first team and would not be in a better position than he would if he remained at the Nou Camp, so he would have no reason to leave.
Guardiola has insisted he would be prepared to put Javi Martinez back in defence to open up a spot for Thiago but given that Martinez/Schweinsteiger was the best central midfield partnership last season, a partnership that was integral to their treble success, it would be a strange decision indeed.
Jupp Heynckes’ Munich adopted an evolved version of Barcelona’s tika-taka football that incorporated a physical element to it. The slick possession football was there but it was backed up by a bit of brute force and physicality that proved so effective, as Barcelona found out the hard way.
Why would Bayern’s board allow Guardiola to take a step back towards the philosophy that Munich crushed by signing Thiago?
One major aspect that raises suspicion over a move to Munich for me is that Thiago wants a release clause in his contract that guarantees him game, much like what he currently has at Barcelona. At Munich, that wouldn’t happen as CEO Karl Heinz Rummenigge previously insisted such clauses don’t exist in their contracts.
To me, Guardiola’s comments are more an indication that Munich aren’t close to signing the player. There would be no reason for him to polish Thiago’s ego so much if the club was already at an advanced stage of negotiations, which is a good indication that United still stand a strong chance of signing him.