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Bobby McMahon

Bobby McMahon

You can see me on Soccer Central most Mondays and Thursdays on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada. I write a regular column for and and frequently guest on various podcasts and radio shows.


Manchester United, Thiago Alcântara And Barcelona’s Dilemma – Part One

Written by on June 24, 2013 | 11 Comments »
Posted in Barcelona, Manchester United

If we are to believe sections of the soccer media then Manchester United and Barcelona’s midfielder Thiago Alcântara have agreed personal terms for this coming season. We have also been told that because the player failed to hit a certain threshold in playing minutes last season the contract buy-out clause has been reduced to a “measly” $25M and Manchester United have already agreed to pay that amount.

Logic would dictate that if both these things were true then there seems very little reason why Barcelona and Manchester United… to read more please click on the link.

11 responses to “Manchester United, Thiago Alcântara And Barcelona’s Dilemma – Part One”

  1. Ed Gomes says:

    Great piece Bobby. I always found it laughable how some pundits and fans have always treated Barca as the little team that could. The club that depended on its academy to produce talent in order to survive.
    Yes, Barca’s academy has produced some wonderful talent that’s playing throughout the world. Players that were unable to crack Barca’s lineup have gone on to other clubs and/or leagues, and have been successful.
    That being said Barca has spent as much much money as the vilified billionaires. Even with the wonderful in-house talent they’ve have gone out and spent a ton of money on transfers. They still haven’t been able to settle on a striker, which has cost them absurd amounts of money. Let’s not forget that Barca’s wage bill ranks with the highest in the world.

  2. Ed – I did not have the time to make an additional point. That being that for all we hear about clubs using the Barcelona model and not having to spend outrageous amounts of money on talent that paying to acquire players is still a fundamental requirement for success.
    The real pay off is paying less to acquire more.
    However, I would also accept that there are other benefits of developing your own talent – common culture, standards etc.

  3. Mark says:

    Bobby, Im looking forward to Part 2. Perhaps by then the actual transaction will have taken place. I think he will do well at United and Carrick should enioy sharing the playmaking duties that Anderson and Cleverley were not so successful at. Interesting that Pique came from Barca and SAF allowed him to leave (before showing his full potential in my opinion – but I believe Pique felt he wasnt getting enougb playing time. Little did he know that Ferdinand and Vidic would both be suffering injuries over the past several seasons.) I rate Pique over Evans.

    I wonder if DeGea tried to influence Thiago’s decision during the U-21s?

  4. Smiley says:

    I think Barca will promise Thiago more playing time next season and will do all they can to keep him. They have already spent so much time on his development and know they will just need to spend the 25M on his replacement when Xavi (33) and Iniesta (30) expire.

    Ultimately it will be Thago’s call and will depend on an assurance of 1st team football next season which he has merited.

    * It’s interesting that not even the lower tier media machine have mentioned a possible replacement for Tito should his condition not improve and he require treatment in NYC during crucial junctures of Barca’s season.

  5. Ed Gomes says:

    I agree Bobby. Barca’s leverages that time spent by players at the academy, on order to get them back. Cesc comes to mind, but there’s been others.
    I do find it odd that Barca doesn’t make more off its youth development. A lot of these players leave due to deals having expired. Yes they may never have been good enough for Barca, Nolito comes to mind, but they could have brought in revenue instead of leaving for free.
    For me Barca is no different than Abram. They basically throw money at problems and are able to swallow mistakes and move on.

    I’m also very curious in seeing how Barca deals with Neymar. It’s not just Messi but also Xavi, Iniesta, etc… Neymar is a wonderful talent, but he’s much more of a straight forward attacking player or actually holds up play with his touches. Will he conform to Barca’s way of quick passes or will they unleash him.

    On a side note, I wonder if anyone else noticed how the fans booed Spain at Conf. Cup when they started tiki tak the ball around at the back. For all the praise that Spain/Barca get for their beautiful ball movement, its truly only beautiful when they attack. The fact that gets swept under the rug is that its downright boring to watch when they’re knocking the ball back and forth between mids and back line. The Brazilian fans won’t let them get away from that.

  6. Ed Gomes says:

    Sorry for typos and grammar. On the train with fat fingers on phone.

  7. Ed – The one thing that makes me think Neymar will work at Barcelona is how explosive and clinic he seems to be. He doesn’t appear to be the sort of player that needs to be on the ball all the time. But get him the ball in the right position and he hits the ball very powerfully and his the target more often than most.

  8. Ed Gomes says:

    I agree Bobby, but the big question will be how much will he be allowed to do that. And by that I mean, how bored and frustrated will he become, if scolded or shunned.
    It sounds silly, but strikers haven’t exactly stuck at Barca. I’m a Messi fan, but he’s gotten a pass on the relationships/non relationships with Barca strikers. It started with Eto’o and its continued through Villa.
    Neymar isn’t a striker, but he’ll want the ball at his feet. Imagine Neymar holding onto the ball while Xavi, Iniesta, etc… are waiting for it. That will be a at Barca, since they are so used to knocking the ball around rapidly even if its a back pass.
    In theory Neymar should make them more potent. But we’ll see if it happens in practice.

  9. John Bladen says:

    Ed: It’s true. I understand why they were so keen to get Ibrahimovic (size up front being one of their few deficiencies at the time) when they did. However, while he did score at a pretty good rate for them, he really didn’t fit into their system and moved on quickly. We can only wonder what might have been the outcome had Eto’o remained.

    I do think Neymar will fit in with the Barcelona scheme much better, but there’s still “only one ball”.

  10. Ed Gomes says:

    I do agree that Ibra was a colossal mistake. If I remember correctly most pundits thought it would never work.

    If Eto’o were to have remained, Inter/Mourinho would most like never would have won the “Treble” and the managerial landscape could be very different now. Eto’o who was always known as a selfish player, was incredible for Mourinho and Inter. In my opinion, he was one of the best players who has gotten lost due to his move for the money. A real shame, but I understand it due to his age.

  11. Interesting conversation, guys. I do think it is preferable to produce your talent, but even Barcelona has not been able to meet all of its needs with home-grown talent. Manchester United has been more of a buyer and I would hope that it can produce more and not rely so much on expensive transfers.

    Just wanted to let you know the discussion on Eto’o also caught my attention. I am a Barcelona fan and always like him in the team. To me, it was a major disappointment that Guardiola did not believe he fit in well with the team he wanted to create – and shape around Messi. Guardiola proved he knew what he was doing but, gosh, I would have preferred to have kept Eto’o.

    With respect to Neymar, I think he earned the FC Barcelona team members’ respect after his perfomance in the Confederations Cup and the dismantling of the Spanish team.

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