In the past few days, rumours have emerged linking Barcelona star, Thiago Alcântara with a move away from the Camp Nou. According to the reports anyway, Barcelona included a bizarre clause in his contract, stipulating that the young midfielder could leave the club – provided that he hadn’t featured in a specific number of matches over the course of the season. And yes, it’s true; Thiago hasn’t played as much as some might have hoped this season – both as a result of injury, and at the discretion of Barcelona coach, Tito Vilanova – but regardless of that fact, something doesn’t quite add up.
Of course, in this day and age, the media is often wrong – and as a result, it’s safe to say that we shouldn’t believe everything we read – especially as the media is somewhat open to exploitation. Given that most players not only employ agents, but a whole team of advisors, it’s entirely possible that the media isn’t simply "making it up". Agents, or advisors, or pretty much anyone close to the player, could leak a story to a journalist to serve a greater purpose. Either the story is true, and the journalist has got a "scoop", or the story isn’t true, and if that’s the case, then the source of the information (whether it’s an agent, advisor, or maybe even the player himself) has still got what they wanted. With the story in the media, the player, agent, or team of representatives have succeeded in placing pressure on their current club.
In this case, it’s totally appropriate – Thiago, or someone close to the player, is unhappy at his playing time (or lack thereof) and therefore leaks this story to the media, placing pressure on Barcelona to commit to Thiago, assuring him that he will receive his fair share of minutes in the future. And in a sense, that’s what Barcelona have done. Xavi was asked about Thiago in a recent event, noting in his response that the young midfielder is an "extraordinary player", and "he’s not just a player for the future, but a player for right now". High praise indeed, considering that Xavi himself had to wait for his chance in the first-team – and just look at how his career has turned out. Could a similar future await Thiago?
He certainly has the talent, but there are question marks over his patience. Will he wait his turn, or is he really intent on leaving the Camp Nou this summer? The only person that knows for sure is Thiago, and he hasn’t specified either way – but is there really a release clause? Like I said, something doesn’t add up. The rumour started in Marca, with the mention of a release clause, but also with a rather ridiculous oversight – there was no mention of any specifics related to the clause. Just how many games did Thiago have to miss to activate this lower clause? Was it a matter of missing a certain number of matches? Missing a particular number of minutes? With no mention in the report from Marca, anyone would think that there was no clause, or that perhaps, Marca had made the whole thing up.
I touched on that side of things (and more) in an interview of sorts with my good friend Gene Um, who runs our fellow SB Nation blog, The Busby Babe – although since then, other reports have surfaced, speculating that this magical number was 60%. In order to activate this lowered release clause, Thiago had to feature in less than 60% of Barcelona matches, or minutes, depending on which report you read.
However, if you do the math, even this "60%" doesn’t make sense. With 34 appearances in 58 matches, Thiago has currently featured in 58.6% of Barcelona’s fixtures this season, and provided he plays a part in Barça’s final two fixtures, he will reach that 60% mark (36/60). Even with a call-up to the Spanish Under-21 squad, Thiago could still play against Malaga, as the squad doesn’t travel to Israel until the 3rd of June. And if the clause is based on minutes, then Thiago would have been free to leave the club for €18 million just a summer ago (Thiago played 2947 minutes, out of a total 5760 minutes) – and obviously, nothing materialised.
After all the trouble Barça have had with Neymar’s father, maybe this story, and indeed the blame lies with another famous Brazilian father...