Things are certainly looking very good for Thiago Alcantara in Germany. Since leaving Barcelona to join Pep Guardiola’s Mia san Mia challenge over six years ago, Thiago has become a totem of the modern Bayern.
“My son is Bavarian. He was born here. Also more than an international club, Bayern is a family club. You can move about easily here, be friends with everyone who works here at Sabenerstrasse. It feels like home.”
Comfortable as Thiago is in Munich, and talking about the club, you get the sense that he is much more comfortable just discussing how football works. He suddenly gets much more animated and involved, rapidly talking about intricacies of the game.
'THE ART OF SEEING WHAT OTHER PLAYERS DON'T.'
“You need these two before anything: a panorama of the match, where the spaces will be from where you are; and the knowledge of your team, who are your teammates playing, what are their movements like.
Having these visuals will greatly inform your decision on where to play the ball, especially when you need to make it in split second. Vision is as much a time thing as space playing at this level.”
'THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE PERFECT DELIVERY.'
“You have to understand who you’re giving the ball to, if he’s left-footed, right-footed, all that. And secondly, know the ‘move’—for example if it’s a move where the defence is high and you’re looking to open up the play, the ball has to be fast and inside the centre-half.
So again: you read the player, which relates back to the knowledge of your team; and you read the play, which relates back to having a panoramic view of the game. It’s the same principles.”
“I’m from La Masia but my play is more than just tiki-taka. For one, there is also the Brazilian—my heritage—idea of a pivot. As well as other football philosophies I pick up along the way through the different coaches I met.
At the bottom of it all I believe to influence a game you have to start from the basics. You have to control your actions, making sure every one of them is performed in the best manner possible. That’s how you dominate, no shortcuts, through execution.”
'CONTROLLED VS HIGH-SCORING?'
“I’m not a fan of high-scoring games. The 5–3s, the 6–4s, it’s like you’re just swept along with it. You’re just living the game, maximum effort, but minimum control. Afterwards you’re there thinking ‘where were we in that moment’, you don’t remember.”
Instead I love what Ajax did in Champions League 2018/19. They have a clear idea of how they want to play and controlled all the matches, including the two group matches with us. That’s how it should be and that’s what I’d love to do.”
'SOUNDS A LOT LIKE PEP.'
“Yes. My ideal team play is a logical consequence of the training, when you know every move, every automatism so well you don’t have to think on the pitch.
Of all the coaches I played under, Pep was definitely the one with the most intensity, most concentration. You had the same tension training as playing. You’re attuned to learn and hone your game. With other coaches, training sessions can be a bit more light-hearted, but with Pep it’s always intense.”
'PRESSURE TO WIN THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE.'
“No, I don’t see the Champions League as the only trophy that I’ve not won. Every season I start from nothing, and I go for everything: the league, the cup, the Champions League, what have you.
And no, I don’t feel pressure. It’s just football, you know? If you told me I had to operate on someone, it’s pressure. But to play football, that’s not pressure.”