The future of FC Bayern’s Spain international midfielder Thiago Alcantara is set to be one of the highest-profile transfer sagas of the summer, whether he stays or whether he goes, and he’s been heavily linked with Liverpool during recent months.
With one year left on his contract, Bayern were hoping their supremely talented midfielder would sign an extension on his current deal, but at the same time, they don’t seem too worried about letting him go.
The perennial German champions have a number of quality options on midfield, especially in the shape of Leon Goretzka and right-back-turned-midfielder Joshua Kimmich, who would be a quality pairing for any team in Europe.
With Hansi Flick getting the most out of Thomas Müller again, in a role off the striker, a 4-2-3-1 system means they only need two central midfielders to go with one more advanced playmaker or support striker. At times Bayern are so attacking and so dominant that their formation is more like a 2-4-4, with the full-backs bombing forward down the flanks.
Even without Thiago, they have enough depth in the squad in this area, including the world-class utility-man David Alaba, as well as options such as Corentin Tolisso, Michaël Cuisance, and young New Zealander, Sarpreet Singh. If Thiago leaves, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them add another.
But neither do they need to sell Thiago, and this puts them in a good position when it comes to negotiating a fee this summer. Bayern would happily take another season from one of the best midfielders around before letting him go on a free at the end of the 2020/21 season.
If they were to sell him this summer, Bayern are looking for a fee in the region of €30m. Receiving this type of transfer fee just a year before a player’s contract is up, while also removing his considerable salary from the wage bill, would also be attractive for the Bavarians. As is often the case, Bayern hold all the cards.
At the same time, it’s a chance for another club who can make room for Thiago’s wages to secure a world-class player relatively cheaply. If the 29-year-old can stay fit, he would be an asset to any team in Europe, and with Liverpool perhaps looking for more creativity in midfield to take some of their burden off their full-backs, he would certainly fit the bill.
“In Germany they are saying that if Liverpool buy Thiago they’ll win every game next year!” German football expert Raphael Honigstein told Sky Sports.
“He’s just been so good. If there’s one player [Liverpool] are missing in that midfield it’s that technical player. More of a creator and a dribbler, somebody who scores spectacular goals and can find a pass.
“It’s not a player that Liverpool have accommodated in recent years and it would change the dynamic of their midfield if you find space for him.
“But in terms of real quality, technique and unique skills any club in the world should be in for him. If Liverpool get him in the summer when the traditional powerhouses on the continent can’t do it, the deal would be an absolute steal for the kind of money Bayern are talking about – £25m.
“He’s only got a year left on his contract, but for a player who’s going to be at his peak for another two or three years, that is a bargain in my book. Whoever gets him is getting an absolute diamond.”
Thiago has indicated to the Bayern hierarchy that he wants another challenge in the final years in his career. It would be better for him to start this challenge at the age of 29 and on the back of a decent run of games from Bayern, than it would be to start it in the 2021/22 season when he will have just turned 30.
Liverpool have already freed up wages following the departures of Adam Lallana, Nathaniel Clyne, and Dejan Lovren, which would allow them to bring in a player such as Thiago without affecting their overall budget.
The Premier League champions are often seen as a club who need to sell to buy, but in this instance, the free wages are effectively the sales, and the fee of around £10m received from Zenit Saint Petersburg for Lovren would go some way to covering the Thiago transfer.
It might be a risk given his injury history, but Liverpool often offer performance- and appearance-related contracts meaning a spell on the sidelines for a key player doesn’t cost them too much.
The move seems to make sense for all parties, but with the disjointed nature of the seasons due to the break in football as a result of Covid-19, we could have to wait until the end of the 19/20 Champions League campaign which Bayern are among the favourites to win, before we get an answer regarding Thiago’s future.