BARCELONA: Manchester United’s worst fears over Thiago Alcantara have been confirmed after Spain’s European youth-winning captain told Barcelona that he wants to join Bayern Munich writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
This means a second defeat for new United manager David Moyes after his new team lost their first match in his charge by 1-0 to a Thai All-Star XI in Bangkok.
Alcantara, Italian-born son of former Brazilian World Cup-winner Mazinho, had emerged as a priority target for United after his hat-trick for Spain against Italy in the Euro under-21 final in Jerusalem last month.
However that was before new Bayern coach Pep Guardiola had recommended a bid for Alcantara from the European and German champions. Alcantara was brought up through the Barcelona system by Guardiola but had been frustrated by a lack of starting opportunities last season.
On Thursday Bayern chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge informed Barcelona president Sandro Rosell that the Munich club were ready to meet the €18m buy-out valuation in the player’s contract. Alcantara has since told Barcelona that he wants to go and Guardiola has confirmed in press conference that he hopes the deal can be sealed.
Bayern can save themselves operational cash if Alcanatara were to buy out the clause himself – as did midfielder Javi Martinez in buying out his own €40m release clause from Bilbao last year.
Barcelona still harbour faint hopes of pushing up the price if Bayern and United ended up in an auction for the player.
Alcantara hopes the deal will be agreed over the weekend, sparing him any need to turn up for pre-season work with Barcelona on Monday while the haggling continues.
He could then make his Bayern debut against Barcelona in the ‘Audi Cup’ in Munich on July 24.
The match will be shadowed by other issues after Guardiola’s complaint last week about slurs against him from within the Barcelona boardroom over the past year, a claim the club has denied.
Barcelona’s old rivals Real Madrid have paid €39m for one of Alcantara’s Spain under-21 team-mates, Asier Illarramendi, from Real Sociedad. Illarramendi is considered the long-term successor in defensive midfield to Xabi Alonso.
Illarramendi’s capture follows hard on the heels of the purchase of under-21 playmaker Isco from Malaga and the return of fullback Daniel Carvajal, another Jerusalem winner, from Bundesliga club Bayer Leverkusen.
Isco and Illarramendi, who has signed a six-year contract, were both named in UEFA’s team of the tournament.
Illarramendi is seen as a long-term replacement for Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso, another former Sociedad player who will be 32 in November, and he will also compete for a place with Germany’s Sami Khedira and Croatia’s Luka Modric.
He told media in San Sebastian: “I thought long and hard with the people around me and I came to the conclusion that it was a unique offer and opportunity, one I couldn’t refuse. I love Real Sociedad but a decision had to be taken and of course Real Madrid excites me too.”