After over half a decade in Germany, Spanish midfielder Thiago Alcantara is set to leave Bayern Munich. The former Barcelona midfielder has spent a trophy-laden time with the Bavarian giants, having picked up seven Bundesliga titles, four DFB-Pokal cups, three DFL-Supercups and a FIFA Club World Cup.
Thiago was in talks for a new deal at the Allianz Arena until he ultimately pulled the plug. The Spaniard, as confirmed by the club chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, is seeking a new challenge elsewhere as he enters the peak of his career.
Speaking on the midfielder's situation, Rummenigge explained to Sky Germany;
"The talks Hasan [Salihamidzic] had with him have always been very productive. And at some point it actually seemed that [a new contract] was done. But then Thiago told Hasan some time ago that he would like to try something new at the end of his career. We have to accept that."
Thiago is regarded as one of the most press-resistant, metronomic players in Europe and has been the Bundesliga's finest midfielder for several years. This season, he's been at his majestic best with the ball, having averaged 77 passes (90.5% accuracy) a game along with 6.6 (!) long balls and three dribbles per 90. The midfield magician has even averaged 4.2 tackles and interceptions a game in the league this year.
Bayern Munich reportedly value him at a figure of €35m, given that he has just a year left on his contract. With the 29-year-old set for a new chapter in his illustrious career, here, we take a look at five realistic destinations for Thiago.
#5 Manchester United | Premier League
Manchester United have been linked with a move for Thiago for several summers. Many sources have claimed that the 29-year-old is admired at Old Trafford, but Bayern Munich have proven to be a notoriously difficult club to negotiate with.
The current crop of midfielders at United have been reenergised by the arrival of Bruno Fernandes midway through the 2019/20 campaign. The Portuguese's immediate impact was felt at the club, but ever since the restart of football, a pressing concern has come to the fore.
Apart from mercurial midfield talents Bruno and Paul Pogba, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer does not have more midfielders of a similar ilk to call upon in their absence. Young Scott McTominay is more of a deputy for defensive lynchpin Nemanja Matic, while Fred — a talented ball progressor — has blown hot and cold during his stay at the club.
Thiago can fix this issue with the utmost ease as he is regarded as one of the most complete central midfielders in the world. He has displayed his ability to control the tempo of the game from the middle time and again, and could make a stellar addition alongside Solskjaer's current midfield kings.
The only notable drawback to this potential move would be the fact that Thiago is unlikely to receive guarantees over his minutes. Should it go through, though, the Red Devils will be blessed with a midfield depth that teams can only dream of.
#4 Barcelona | LaLiga Santander
In theory, a move back to his old stomping ground Barcelona could make a lot of sense for Thiago. The midfielder made no secret of his love for the Catalans, having come through the ranks at La Masia. The Spaniard joined Barcelona's illustrious academy back in 2005 and spent eight years in Spain before moving to Germany.
Barcelona's failures in finding apt replacements for club icons Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta could play well into Thiago's hands. He was touted to be the latter's successor for a long time before he moved to Bayern. With Arthur now set to depart, and veteran duo Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal being linked with moves away, Thiago could seamlessly fit into Barcelona's plans for the immediate future.
Although it could be a perfect move for everyone involved, realistically, there are a couple of things to consider. For starters, Miralem Pjanic's impending arrival at the Nou Camp is one factor, and Barcelona's current financial situation is another. Not to mention, Barcelona's €75m acquisition of Ajax sensation Frenkie de Jong last summer.
This isn't to say that this move would be a bad fit by any means. Thiago has shown that he can play in a double pivot at Bayern, and with Barcelona competing across all fronts, he could prove to be a vital cog for the Catalans. If they can find an agreement with Bayern and Thiago is ready to adjust himself to the team's needs, it would be a superb move.
Lastly, the sentimental value of a homegrown player moving a foreign land and returning as one of the best midfielders in the world could weigh heavily on the decision as well.