Guardiola’s Gamble On Thiago Alcantara: Is It Time For Bayern Munich Fans to Worry?
The transfer of Thiago Alcantara to Bayern Munich has done nothing but pain me.
What happened to the club that used to take care of its own youth and nurture them to become the Bastian Schweinsteigers and Philip Lahms of today? What about Bayern’s great youth academy? Is the transfer of Thiago Alcantara really necessary when the Bayern roster is already bursting at the seams with world class midfielders? Bayern boast the treble-winning midfield partnership of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez, the elegant maestro of Toni Kroos, the wily Thomas Muller, Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery, Luiz Gustavo and the young Xherdan Shaqiri. Bayern recently signed Mario Gotze, whose guile, potential and sheer class made him a mouthwatering prospect in Bayern’s new line up.
Where on earth does Thiago fit in to all this? A player who left Barcelona for more playing time is to start games in the Bayern midfield? What is to become of budding young talents like Emre Can and Pierre-Emil Hojbjerg who are waiting in the wings? Are Bayern set to ignore their own youth simply to satisfy the whims of their new Spanish manager?
At first, Pep Guardiola’s appointment as the new manager of Bayern Munich seemed to be a match made in heaven; one of the most sought after coaches in the world who had a knack for developing and nurturing youth players into a system where they can play flowing, attacking football was now destined to work with Bayern. One envisioned that he would integrate the unpolished midfield gems that were growing in Bayern’s youth team and turn Bayern’s current treble-winning squad into a truly unstoppable attacking football force for years to come. The confirmation of the signing of Mario Gotze for 37 million euros in April seemed to confirm that Guardiola had already made his first mark at his new club before even officially starting.
However, Guardiola came out publicly stating his interest in Thiago. “Gotze is a suberb player, but I need Thiago” The quote seems rather dismissive of Gotze, and oddly so, given his remarkable form last season and his immense talent and potential.
Schweinsteiger is Bayern’s own Xavi who pulls the strings in midfield. Martinez offers steel in the middle and Kroos offers class while Ribery and Robben seemed destined to work their magic upfront with Gotze or Muller. Thiago, while still a good player bought at a bargain price of around 20 million euros, offers nothing more to the table. The move would make more sense from the perspective of adding further squad depth and providing more competition for places. However, it seems unlikely that a player bought for twenty million was meant to sit on the sidelines. Thiago left his boyhood club in search of more playing time ahead of the World Cup next year. In that light, the move hardly makes sense and it is seems as though he has made the jump from the frying pan into the fire. As a player who has failed to live up to his potential over the past two seasons, it seems baffling that Thiago could start over Kroos, Schweinsteiger, Muller, or Gotze, all of whom have stellar seasons playing at the highest level and are seasoned campaigners. Not only is this signing bound to upset the currently perfect balance of Bayern’s all-conquering midfield of last season, squad players and young players may struggle for any minutes and may be tempted to leave the club. Gustavo, an extremely reliable midfield back-up, may now be shunted further down the pecking order, while the same fate may lie for budding talent of Shaqiri as well. And painfully enough, young talents like Can and Hojberg may never get to a chance to grow into Bayern’s midfield and become the club’s home-grown stars of tomorrow.
Guardiola vowed at his first Bayern press conference that he would adapt to his players instead of making his team adapt to him, but judging by his impetuous public comments and the recent transfer of Thiago Alcantara, he seems to be doing quite the opposite. That being said, the club seem to have implicit trust in his judgment and only time will tell if the coach is making the right steps with this immense gamble.