Real Madrid are aiming to secure the transfers of two-thirds of Spain's Euro-winning U-21 midfield for less than 60 million euro. They have already locked up Isco Alarcon from Malaga for around 30 million and are attempting to seal up the transfer of Asier Illarramendi from Real Sociedad for a similar fee.
However, the crown jewel of La Rojita's midfield might be going for 18 million. Thiago Alcantara, who scored a hat trick in the final, is said to be on the verge of leaving Barcelona as Manchester United are ready and willing to pay his release clause.
That would represent phenomenally bad value in the current market. It's one thing if Thiago feels he cannot get minutes behind Xavi, Andres Iniesta, and Cesc Fabregas and wants to change teams. It's another that Barcelona might let him go for a bad price on top of that.
Thiago's release clause has been the object of some controversy and confusion. When he re-signed in 2011, Barcelona announced his release clause at 90 million euro. However, it turns out that was contingent on Thiago featuring for at least 30 minutes in at least 60% of Barcelona's fixtures. He missed that mark by some distance. His fee, then, has been lowered to around 17 or 18 million euro.
Some have blamed Thiago for wanting to leave the team that brought him up. But on the other hand, Thiago is doing what any player would do: look out for himself. Manchester United are offering a better contract and more playing time. Barcelona probably offer a better opportunity in terms of learning from role models, and perhaps a better shot at silverware. In the end, Thiago has to make a choice, and it's his choice only to make.
The problem, again, is the fee. So is the management to blame?
One would have to imagine the front office did not want to set this strange release clause that would possibly encroach in team selection. The truth is probably that Barcelona had no real choice in setting this clause - Thiago was under transfer speculation before, and he probably only agreed to remain at Barcelona with a few safeguards such as the playing time clause.
So is it the fault of manager Tito Vilanova and his assistant Jordi Roura?
Lack of squad rotation was probably the single biggest complaint lodged against the duo. Some more rotation would have saved the legs of Xavi and Iniesta as well as given more playing time to Thiago, to give one example.
The duo have a lot of defenses to that argument. Obviously, Tito's bout with cancer is so serious it makes the talk of release clauses and rotation seem totally pointless. However, in footballing terms, the fans will still judge the job he's done - something I imagine he accepts and even wants.
Roura summed up the coaches' position, ""We decide who plays for sporting reasons. It's not our job to bear in mind the players' contracts." And, after all, the coaches delivered a fine league win.
Were the management and player putting undue pressure on the coaches? After all, shouldn't the best fit players start regardless of their contract situation? Or were the coaches naive in this line of thinking?
So in the end, if Thiago does leave, who is to blame? Is it the player himself in tandem with his agent and father, who forced the issue? Is it the suits at Barcelona for mishandling the contract situation? Or is it the coaches who did not rotate enough?
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