Come to think of it, Thiago Alcantara had virtually no choice. At the 1994 World Cup in the United States, when Bebeto scored the second goal for the Brazilian team during the huge 2-3 draw over the Netherlands and ran to celebrate with the famous crib dance after the birth of his son, he was joined on the one hand by the great Romario and on the other by Thiago’s father. , Thiago who was then only three years old and was already trailing behind his father for training in his teams, arranged shoes like cones and dribbled between them in a slalom with a small ball into the living room.
Like many children of international professional footballers, he had to wander quite a bit. He was born in Italy, immediately after his father moved from the Brazilian Vasco da Gama where he began his career, to the beginning of his European journey in Little Lecce. The father then moved to Fiorentina, returned to Brazil for two seasons at the Palmeiras, moved to Spain for two years in the Valencia uniform and from there to Salta Vigo – where he played four seasons in part collaborating with Haim Revivo, before a farewell season from Europe in Elche and a farewell round in football in general, again in 15. Playing in the uniform of the Vitoria team, in the city of Salvador in the state of Bahia. Aside from the latter, Thiago has joined all of these stations (and starting at some point Rafinha is also two years younger than him).
During his father’s retirement season he stayed away from him, with the rest of the family, in Rio de Janeiro. But even in these conditions and as a small child – football remains the center of life for him. In the catechist competitions in which he participated in first grade with his school he was so good that from time to time it was necessary to pull out the official documents proving that he was indeed a full-time student and was not brought in as a special reinforcement.
Even the retirement of his listeners from football in 2001 in Brazil, it turned out, was not the end of the wanderings. In 2004 he decided to return to Spain and establish a football school in Vigo, the city where he spent the longest period outside Brazil. There also began to be written the private legend of Thiago. At the age of 11 he said in an interview about life as a footballer’s son: “It’s nice. I see football in good stadiums, meet important footballers and I still have time to enjoy life.”
The next chapter in this story was supposed to be naturally Thiago’s integration into Salta Vigo, the big team of the city whose father was one of the people responsible for making it a top Spanish team in the years he played for it. But things happened differently, at least according to the stories: when his listeners, even in his days as an active player, came to the club and asked them if they would accept his two sons, describing Thiago as a “particularly high-tech midfielder” (Rafinha then even dreamed of being a goalkeeper) , He was told the team was full, as the season was already in full swing. So his listeners turned to another local club, Orca, and let Thiago do his magic there.
By this point Thiago had already started making a name for himself in Spain as a talented footballer at the beginning of his career. Along with the respectable and well-known pedigree in the city, the eye caught the high technique, the even higher winemaking, and the even higher self-confidence of both together. Although he had a great love and passion for Capoeira as well, he had already said in the same interview clearly: “I want to be a footballer. Nothing else.” His mother, a former Brazilian volleyball player, said he always tried to emulate his father and admired him.
In the group’s first encounter with Salta’s parallel children’s group, with his father sitting in the stands, Thiago decided to make a change in the group’s regular short horn exercise, which always started with him. Instead of raising the ball from the edge of an extension to the head of one of his friends, he rotated it to the far connections and into the net. His coach at the time said that the people of Salta stood up and applauded and teased his father that “his wrong listeners played with them.”
His further development was in a club called Kalma from the city of Elche (yes, the father’s last team in Spain). This is a club that does not have a mature team and its philosophy is to develop players in the academy and improve them. Then came four years in Flamengo’s youth department – back in Brazil – and then began his Barcelona episode. Barça fans, as well as the experts, bring Thiago as a symbol of the beginning of the dark period of not integrating La Masia academy players into the club. His release to Bayern in 2013 for 25 million euros was a result of the fact that Barcelona failed to provide him with a minimum quota of minutes agreed upon. The fact that Pep Guardiola was the man who brought him in as a dowry when he signed for Bayern only further emphasized this sour taste.
We in Israel have already seen up close what the Catalans are giving up after seeing him consult Teddy that summer in a hat-trick in the Spanish national team uniform, in the European Under-21 Championship final. Two years earlier he was already part of the Spanish national team that won the same title in Denmark. It led to the corresponding title (2008).
There are quite a few examples of generations of parents and children of athletes. Children do not always choose the same branch of their parents, and even if they do – they do not always go the same way in terms of role on the pitch or style. But in the case of Thiago and his listeners, more than in appearance, the common DNA is evident in the way they play football. Thiago clung to the central connection position his father had developed into an art, and upgraded it to a high-tech rank. For none of them the dry numbers in the traditional statistics pages are not the main issue. 45 goals and 57 assists in 390 games in all competitions throughout Thiago’s career so far will not drop the jaws of any football fan – especially not when it came to two crazy goal machines like Barcelona and Bayern. This is even more true of the 17 goals recorded in the name of his listeners in 371 career games (according to less reliable documentation, with difficulty collecting data on the number of cooks).
In the case of both, the point is wisdom, game control and the combination of Brazilian technique with aggressiveness – and the “deep” numbers – key dedication, accuracy, winning. For Thiago it has meanwhile been enough for 16 titles of all kinds as a key player at Bayern Munich and even earlier eight more as a less significant player with Barcelona. For his listeners, that was enough, apart from two Brazilian championships, for one Copa America Cup and one World Cup – the one with the crib in 1994 – which are probably equivalent to all two dozen of his son’s team titles to date.
The expected hug between the two before his ascent to the grass may still need polishing (the hug at the end already worked better), but on the pitch the produce was immediate. Again, not in numbers, but the pressure he exerted on Chelsea’s every attempt to start a move after balls were removed from its extension, and his continued ball engineering at the start of the attack that led to Sadio Mane’s first goal, were a microcosm of Liverpool fans’ dreams and men. A creative connection at the highest level, one they have not had since Coutinho left – and threatens to be much more than the Brazilian for them.
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