Getting To Know: Thiago Alcántara

VALENCIA, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 21: Thiago Alcantara of Barcelona controls the ball during the La Liga match between Valencia and Barcelona at Estadio Mestalla on September 21, 2011 in Valencia, Spain. (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)

Full name: Thiago Alcántara do Nascimento
Squad No: 11
Position: Midfielder
Date of birth: 11 April 1991
Place of birth: San Pietro Vernotico, Italy
Height: 1.72 m (5 ft 8 in)
Weight: 71 kg (157 lbs)

Thiago was born in San Pietro Vernotico, Italy, a small city near Lecce, where, at the time, Thiago's father, Mazinho, played football. Mazinho's career led his family back to his homeland, Brazil, where Thiago made his first football steps. At the age of four the young boy started attending Flamengo's youth programs, but the very next year the family once again moved, this time to Galicia, Spain. There Thiago joined the youth ranks of Ureca de Vigo, a local team where he honed his skills for the next five seasons.

In 2001, Thiago returned to Flamengo where he stayed for four more years, but his talents were really noticed in 2005, after a short stint back in Galicia with Ureca. Many teams were after the promising youngsters, but only FC Barcelona was able to get his signature. As a 14 year-old he joined the Cadete side and quickly progressed through the youth ranks and was promoted to the Barca B team in the 2008-09 season.

Thiago immediately became a key component of Luis Enrique's side. Day in, day out he showcased his skills and it didn't take long for Thiago to get invited to training sessions with the first team. Thiago made his first team debut on 17 May 2009 in a league match against RCD Mallorca, when he came on as a substitute and played the last 19 minutes. His first goal came in his next league appearance when he beat Racing Santander goalkeeper Fabio Coltorti.

Thiago's role with the first team increased in the 2010-11 season. While he was officially still a member of the reserves, he spent more time with Messi and company than with the B team. After the season ended Thiago signed a new contract and was promoted to the first team, closing his B team account at 59 appearances and three goals. So far Thiago has made 29 appearances for Pep Guardiola's side and managed to find the back of the net five times.

Thiago has also been a fixture in international football. Living in Spain, Thiago chose to play for the Spain's youth selections, instead of Brazil's, where at each level he was the primary playmaker. He led both the U-17 and U-21 teams to European Championship glory and was even selected as the best player of the U-21 tournament in Denmark. Thiago earned his senior team debut for Spain, even though he again had the option to play for Brazil, in a friendly match against Italy on 10 August 2011. His first competitive cap came one month later when he appeared in an Euro 2012 qualifying match against Liechtenstein. Thiago now has three appearances for Spain's senior team, but he is still waiting for the first goal.

Profile
Thiago in an attacking minded midfielder with good pace. His vision and passing are two of his best attributes, but he is also owns a terrific long range shot. With his dribbling abilities and technique Thiago has already proven he can make plays out of nothing. He has a knack for scoring goals as even with his lack of size he knows how to get open in the penalty area. With added experience Thiago has the potential to become one of the top midfielders in the world.

Honors
FC Barcelona

  • La Liga (3): 2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11

  • Supercopa de España (2): 2010, 2011

  • UEFA Champions League (1): 2010-11

  • UEFA Super Cup (1): 2011

Spain

  • UEFA European Under-17 Football Championship (1): 2008

  • UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship (1): 2011

Thiago signed a contract extension in June 2011 that will keep him in Barcelona until 2015. The new contract also includes a €90 million buyout clause.

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