Skip to content

Thiago Alcantara at Bayern Munich: Playing could be a problem, but welcome to modern soccer

Jul 14, 2013, 6:51 PM EST

Italy v Spain - UEFA European U21 Championships: Final Getty Images

A common lament in the wake of Thiago Alcantara’s move to Bayern Munich centered on potential playing time, assumed to be one of the reasons the Spain U-21 star was moving in the first place. With Bayern Munich’s midfield featuring Bastian Schweinsteiger, Javi Martínez and Toni Kroos as first choices, Thomas Müller and Luis Gustavo also seeing time in the middle, and Mario Götze acquired from Borussia Dortmund, is there any room in Bayern’s 4-2-3-1 formation for Alcanatara?

Perhaps not, but there are a number of assumptions within the complaint that may prove false. If so, Bayern’s midfield will prove slightly less muddled:

  • Javi Martínez could resume the role he played at the end of his time at Athletic Bilbao: Central defense. He has the type of on-the-ball skills Guardiola covets in his central defenders and may immediately become one of the new coach’s first choices at the back. Unfortunately, this would also create a log jam among the center back, with Bayern also having Dante, Jerome Boateng, Daniel van Buyten, and a to-return Holger Badstuber at the position. But that’s a topic for another post.
  • Though he proved valuable last year, we’ll have to see if Luis Gustavo plays as prominent a role under Guardiola. Given his game and the team’s other options, he may not be viable competition for Alcantara, despite his obvious qualities.
  • If Guardiola goes back to playing the “false nine” striker he did during his final days at Barcelona, the likes of Müller and Götze are more likely to compete for time with Mario Mandzukic than the rest of the central midfielders.
  • And if that false nine-approach is utilized, it’s unclear that Bayern will play 4-2-3-1 this season. For all we know, Guardiola could be planning on a 4-3-3 variant that sees Kroos playing slightly wider and within the attacking three, squeezing out somebody like Arjen Robben.

Until Bayern plays meaningful games, it’s all speculation. However, it would be strange to assume that Alcantara would move without some assumption of playing time. Promises aren’t always kept, but between Bayern’s significant cash outlay, Thiago’s motives for moving, and the player’s talent, there are a lot hinting the Barça product will see time in the Bundesliga. (

Plus, we know how Barcelona plays. We know they not only have a lot of midfielders, but they don’t rotate their squad as often as other teams. Without somebody leaving the Blaugrana, Alcantara was only likely to see playing time increase as others’ decreased. It was hard to see that happening, though he had made 81 appearances (many as a sub) over the last two seasons.

But this isn’t about Bayern Munich versus Barcelona. This is about how much playing time Alcantara would have gotten at Manchester United, where there’s without question less competition in midfield. Ultimately, however, the Red Devils seem to have taken too long closing a deal with a player they were been linked to for months. They let the European champions come in and swipe their target, prolonging their search to find help for Michael Carrick.

This is just the way modern soccer works. The best teams are consolidating talent to an unprecedented degree, even in the face of concerns over playing time. Just as Isco went to Real Madrid amid their glut of attacking midfielders and Manchester City acquired Fernandinho despite going four or five deep in central midfield, Bayern have brought in Thiago Alcantara, just as they brought in Dante, Mario Mandzukic and Xherdan Shaqiri last year.

Did they need them? Perhaps, though they had stars in all those positions before their arrival. In the end, Bayern wanted the players, and the players wanted to go. With those facets in place, conjecture about playing time becomes irrelevant.

Latest Posts
  1. 2015 MLS season preview: LA Galaxy

    Mar 5, 2015, 5:00 PM EST

    LA Galaxy logo

    Bruce’s boys are back, and once again, rebuilt. This changes little for a team with more championship aspirations.

  2. 2015 MLS season preview: Portland Timbers

    Mar 5, 2015, 4:00 PM EST

    Portland Timbers logo

    Caleb Porter’s final foray in the Rose City? He’ll need the playoffs this year, otherwise…

  3. 2015 MLS season preview: Seattle Sounders

    Mar 5, 2015, 3:19 PM EST

    Seattle Sounders logo

    After winning two of three titles last season, can the Sounders finally clinch that pesky MLS Cup?

  4. PST predicts Major League Soccer’s 2015 standings; Do you agree?

    Mar 5, 2015, 2:45 PM EST

    Kreis and Reyna have painstakingly put the inaugural NYCFC squad together. AP

    From expansion team finishing first to making the playoffs to finishing in last, our writers have varied opinions on how MLS will unfold in 2015.

  5. Premier League Playback: With 10 games to go, here’s how things stand

    Mar 5, 2015, 2:08 PM EST

    PST’s Editor and Lead Writer looks back at the midweek madness, and assesses where we are at with 10 games to go.

  6. 2015 MLS season preview: New England Revolution

    Mar 5, 2015, 1:20 PM EST

    New England logo

    Can the Revs build on a fantastic 2014? Heaps hopes so…

  7. Men In Blazers podcast: Ginormous preview of 2015 MLS season with Alexi Lalas

    Mar 5, 2015, 12:50 PM EST

    meninblazers

    In the latest MiB pod, Alexi Lalas stops by to preview the 2015 MLS season.

  8. MLS Commissioner Don Garber talks new CBA deal; hails players’ role in progress

    Mar 5, 2015, 12:20 PM EST

    MLS ALL-STAR GAME COMING BACK TO DENVER Getty Images

    Here’s what the MLS commish had to say about the new CBA, as months of negotiating finally paid off on Wednesday.

  9. Top 10 breakout players in Major League Soccer for 2015

    Mar 5, 2015, 11:40 AM EST

    Portland Timbers v Real Salt Lake Getty Images

    Who will bounce back or come from nowhere to shine in 2015? Here’s a speculative look.

  10. 2015 MLS season preview: New York Red Bulls

    Mar 5, 2015, 9:30 AM EST

    500px-New_York_Red_Bulls_logo

    How will the Red Bulls get on as Marsch ushers in a new era?

  11. Who, if anybody, won the CBA negotiations in MLS: The players or the league?

    Mar 5, 2015, 8:47 AM EST

    2013 MLS SuperDraft Presented By Adidas Getty Images

    Should the league or the players feel happier on the eve of the 2015 season after a new CBA was agreed?

  12. Winston Reid signs new long-term deal at West Ham United

    Mar 5, 2015, 8:07 AM EST

    West Ham United v Swansea City - Premier League Getty Images

    Reid is going nowhere, as New Zealand international signs new deal at Upton Park.

  13. VIDEO: QPR’s Chris Ramsey “genuinely sick” after loss to Arsenal

    Mar 4, 2015, 10:51 PM EST

    Queens Park Rangers v Arsenal - Premier League Getty Images

    Charlie Austin played well, and the club truly appeared unlucky not to find an equalizer in the 2-1 loss. They were a step off all night.

  14. No. 1 seed DC United out of CONCACAF Champions League despite win vs Alajuelense

    Mar 4, 2015, 10:00 PM EST

    concacaf-champions-league

    The aggregate loss leaves the Montreal Impact as the lone Major League Soccer hope in the CCL semifinals.

  15. Neymar brace puts Barcelona in Copa del Rey final vs Athletic Bilbao (video)

    Mar 4, 2015, 9:16 PM EST

    Neymar, AP

    The clubs have played in 36 finals, second-most to Real Madrid’s 39.

  16. MLS, union come together to avoid calamitous work stoppage

    Mar 4, 2015, 7:58 PM EST

    New MLS logo Getty Images

    Clearly Nick Mendola’s open letter last night did the trick. You’re all welcome.

  17. Spitgate: Did Evans and Cisse spit at each other at St. James Park on Wednesday? Yep.

    Mar 4, 2015, 7:48 PM EST

    Newcastle United v Manchester United - Premier League Getty Images

    The short answer is, “Yes. Yes they did.” Manchester United and Newcastle United had two more spits on target than actual goals on Wednesday.

  18. 2015 MLS Season Preview: D.C. United

    Mar 4, 2015, 7:15 PM EST

    DCUnited

    Last season a one-hit wonder? Not a chance. D.C. United is here to stay.