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The maestro unplugged: Thiago talks football, tactics, and future at Bayern Munich

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In an extensive interview with Bayern.com, Thiago opens up about his thoughts on the beautiful game, his role on the pitch, his style of play, and his future at FC Bayern.

FC Bayern Muenchen v TSG 1899 Hoffenheim - Bundesliga
Thiago pulling the strings vs Hoffenheim.
Photo by Sebastian Widmann/Bongarts/Getty Images

In a recent interview with FCBayern.com, our very own Spanish midfield magician, Thiago Alcantara discusses various topics at length, including the beautiful game, what it means to him, his role at FC Bayern and his thoughts on the German language. So grab that cup of coffee, and enjoy the warm, interesting conversation!

His role on the pitch

Alluding to their team visit to Houston, Bayern asked Thiago whether he views himself “FC Bayern’s indispensable Mission Control.” “No,” Thiago responded:

My idea is that all our players act like leaders, like captains. I want to play my part so that everybody does their job to perfection if possible. I want to make others better. That’s my job.

His own role on the pitch is to coordinate the team with lightning-fast thinking. Thiago explained what goes through his mind on the pitch before he touches the ball at all:

It may be hard to understand for people from outside, but the truth is: You have minus one second, that is, no time at all. You must have an idea before the first touch, and you must always think faster than your opponent. Orientation is key. You must know where you are, you must be in control of the ball and know where your team-mates and your opponents are. You only have a chance of initiating a move if you have all that in mind.

As for critics who argue that Thiago disappears in big games, the midfielder lets his game do the talking:

I’ve been here for six years now, we’ve won the championship title every year and won three cups. In addition, we’ve advanced to the Champions League semi-finals four times. I respect what people think and say. I won’t say anything about that. I play.

Thiago’s vision and the ability to make gold from nothing gel well with this analogy. We’ve often seen him change the dynamic of the game in a matter of seconds, with a touch or two, carving open defences. Now we know how he does it — he slows down time!

Tactics and systems

RB Leipzig v FC Bayern Muenchen - Bundesliga
Thiago with a clean slide tackle on Marcel Sabitzer vs Leipzig at the Red Bull Arena.
Photo by Matthias Hangst/Bongarts/Getty Images

When asked what would please him more, a good pass or a tackle timed to perfection, Thiago’s preference is clear:

A good pass. Technique is the foundation. You can learn how to fight, but first you need the talent to play a good pass. I like it when the spectators applaud a good tackle. But a goal earns the most applause, it’s like an explosion, and rightly so.

Thiago has played under various systems for various managers, the starkest of contrasts being Guardiola’s possession-based tiki-taka and Jupp’s high pressing counter-attacking football. When asked about which system he prefers, he replied:

You can combine the two, but it’s best to have the ball. Then you can shape the game and create pressure. You’re in control. Control is key. And after all, it’s 11 against 11, and all players want to have the ball. Without the ball you can run all you want, but if you don’t have the ball even once, something’s wrong.

Regardless of the system, we’ve seen Thiago flourish everywhere. Press resistant, calm and composed in possession, and quick and artsy on the counter, this man can play an important role in any brand of football.

Thiago has been referred to as Bayern’s “artist” very often, but he also has shown his grit and determination when it mattered. When asked which is more important in football,

Winning. That’s why I’m here, that’s what I play for. It was the same when I took to the pitch for my small home club: I compete to win. Of course it’s more fun if it’s a good game. But in my view sport is always about being better than your opponents. It’s a contest.

Bingo! Here’s to taking the same spirit into big games and bagging those trophies...

Identity, miasanmia and future

Celebrities At Oktoberfest 2019 - Day 16
Thiago attending Oktoberfest with family.
Photo by Gisela Schober/Getty Images

Club-player relationships are very important, especially today, in the light of high transfer fees and permanent transfer runours. Asked about how important identification and identity at a football club is to him,

FC Bayern are a big club with a central idea. That’s important. Take Ajax: they’ve had their own culture since Johan Cruyff. Barcelona adopted this philosophy with Cruyff, and both clubs have been living by this idea for many decades. FC Bayern represent a large family, that’s unique. And we’ve had a philosophy of our own for about a decade, similar to Barcelona and Ajax. We want to dictate the game with the ball. We should look for players according to this idea. It’s also important to consistently pursue it in the youth section.

It’s refreshing to see Bayern players like Thiago fully integrating the idea of Miasanmia and identifying with the club as if it were family. He feels he represents FC Bayern:

Yes, I feel as a part of the club, I can fully identify with this idea. A player can’t have as a motto: “I’ll play for 90 minutes, and that’s all I’m interested in.” I always say: FC Bayern is like a big house where everyone lives closely together under the same roof.

Speaking further regarding his future and whether he sees himself at the club long-term:

Both parties must make this decision. I feel fantastic, my family are very happy. The quality of life is incredibly good in Munich, so why not?

Thiago has become such an important figure of the club, he’s almost indispensable. If club and player do come to an agreement and Thiago ends up staying, I’m certain Bayern fans all over the world would dance in joy, all samba style!

Squad goals

Bavaria Munich - FSV Mainz 05
Gabriel and Berni sharing an adorable moment together.
Photo by Lino Mirgeler/picture alliance via Getty Images

When asked about his targets for the season:

They’re always the same. There are five or six clubs in the world who can seriously say before the start of a season: We want to win every trophy. FC Bayern are one of them.

We, as Bayern fans, also hope that this is the season we grab the UCL trophy that has eluded us for the past 6 seasons. And, if we are to make history, Thiago’s contribution in midfield will be key to reaching the pinnacle of European club football. Auf geht’s!

And finally, when asked about his favourite word in German, a language Thiago has become quite fluent in, he answered after a brief pause:

Tor. Tor is superb. It’s clear, simple, German — and it’s nice for us footballers.

...and for us Bayern fans too! Nothing beats the euphoria felt when the team score a goal!