For most of the summer, the common consensus was that Spain’s rising star Thiago Alcantara was heading to Old Trafford for a knockdown price of under €20m.
Alcantara was available because he did not get enough playing time at Barcelona last season, something that was not expected to be a problem at United.
Many expected that the transfer would be completed after the U21 Euros this summer, but it kept dragging on and late last night Spanish radio station Cadena COPE stated that Thiago would sign for Bayern Munich.
This morning Pe Guardiola was very effusive in his praise of Thiago saying:
“I’ve asked [sporting director] Matthias Sammer and [CEO] Karl-Heinz Rummenigge to get him, he’s a very talented player,” Guardiola said. Unused to such an open response, the murmurs of surprise among the media seemed to catch the Bayern coach off guard for a moment. Pressed to confirm his interest, the 42-year-old simply stated:
“I don’t know what will happen – he’s a Barcelona player and I know him well from my time there with the reserve team,” Guardiola continued, before emphasising that Alacantara is the only player on his wish list: “It’s Thiago or nothing.”
For Guardiola to be so open about Thiago, is really unusual and indicates to me that this deal is done. Thiago Alcantara will be at Bayern Munich next season.
So where does that leave Man United, who spent a lot of time and energy trying to sign Thiago but could not close the deal?
United have a new management team in place with the departures of Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill and fingers will have to be pointed at new boss David Moyes and chief executive Ed Woodward. If they could not convince a 21-year-old Spanish player, who would almost have been guaranteed a starting role with the champions of England, to come to Old Trafford, how are they going to convince the best best players to come to United?
United left for their Asia preseason tour yesterday and the trip would have given Moyes and Woodward plenty of time to talk about plan B. Title rivals Manchester City and Chelsea have been improved their squads this summer, while United have taken a step backwards, with the retirement of Fergie.
The new season starts in just over a month and the clock is ticking.