Ones to watch #10: Thiago Alcântara

When you look at Barcelona’s youth system, you see pure home-grown talent which the rest of the world envies. Something they are famous for. Names like Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Guardiola, Fabregas, Valdes, Arteta, Puyol, De La Pena, Messi and Pique have all come through Barça’s ranks. In recent years, striker Bojan as well as World Cup winners Pedro and Sergio Busquets were making headlines as Barça “next generation”. But in recent months, a 20-year old midfielder looks set for the big time on football’s highest stage: Thiago Alcântara.

Alcântara was born in 1991 in the province of Brindisi in southern Italy as his father, Brazilian defender Mazinho was playing his football in Serie A for Lecce at the time. After the 1994 World Cup, his father (with winners medal in tow) moved to Spain, where the young Thiago would spend the first few years of his life learning the game he was immersed in. After his father’s retirement in 2001, the Alcântara family moved back to Brazil where Thiago, aged 10, started playing with Flamengo‘s youth teams. That was until Barcelona scouts came knocking and Thiago moved to the Catalan capital in 2005 aged 14. After four years with Barça’s impressive youth academy, Thiago made his debut in a La Liga match in May 2009 against Mallorca. He seemed to improve with every game he played wearing Barcelona’s famous colours since then. Watch the video below to believe it.
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Having played with Spain’s youth teams at various levels since 2007, it was only natural that former Barcelona (and Madrid) star and current Spain u-21 coach Luis Milla invited the 20-year old to represent the national team at this level. The result? Not only his usual pin point passing, breathtaking vision and wonderful displays that shows that this kid is the most likely heir to Xavi’s throne at Camp Nou, but also scoring a breathtaking 40 yeard free kick in the final.

Barcelona are this summer fighting to bring Cesc Fabregas back to the club he left as a youngster. If they fail to do so (like they did last summer), it could be quite likely that Thiago will be awarded Pep Guardiola’s famous no. 4 jersey next season.