Thiago Alcantara spoke clearly.
“All of you know how Pep Guardiola is as a manager … he is the best coach in history,” Alcantara said.
The Spanish international has long been a fan of Guardiola after emerging at Barcelona under his guidance before joining him in Germany at Bayern Munich.
“Pep Guardiola took me from the youth to first-team and helped me a lot along the way,” Thiago told DAZN. “A young player coming into any first-team has to learn a lot. With him as a coach, you learn faster and better. He was a huge help right from the beginning, here at Bayern as well.”
Guardiola had not even taken his first training session with Manchester City when reports began surfacing that Thiago would follow him to the north west. It made perfect sense to sign a player so familiar with Guardiola’s style, a general to help install a new identity at the Etihad.
In the end, a move failed to materialise, but the reports that Thiago is ready to leave Bayern with 12 months left on his contract alerted several clubs, including City.
Thiago has aged like fine-wine, and Guardiola knows he will need to rebuild his team after failing to beat Liverpool to the Premier League title this season.
The departure of David Silva after a decade of success is bittersweet. From a playing standpoint, there is a sense that a replacement is required, and Thiago would fit that bill perfectly.
His blend of skill, defensive contribution, and incisive passing is the trifecta Guardiola looks for, and with talk of a fee in the region of £35million, it is undoubtedly a no-brainer for City?
Only, there’s a better option, and it’s much close to home: Phil Foden, the Stockport Iniesta. Foden has racked up 194 Premier League minutes since football returned to action and has managed four goals and an assist in that time.
While he has shone in front of goal Foden’s general play has also highlighted his brilliance. The midfielder’s performance against Liverpool won him rave reviews, as his guile, balance, and dribbling skill bamboozled the Premier League champions.
At times, Guardiola has been accused of being overprotective with Foden. He was a star at the 2017 U17 World Cup alongside fellow City academy graduate Jadon Sancho who is now at Borussia Dortmund.
Sancho’s decision to leave was roundly praised as it quickly exposed him to first-team football, with a transfer back home now expected this summer.
Foden’s patience is admirable, and now is the time for it to be rewarded by Guardiola. The midfielder has shown since lockdown he is ready to be an influence on proceedings and drive this City side forward.
A home-grown lad that can inspire the next generation, it would be the perfect project for Pep to take on. The glamour of Thiago joining the club may appeal to many, while the familiarity is a comfort to Guardiola. The bolder decision, however, is to use Foden and finally unleash his potential on the Premier League in full.
By doing that he will not only reap the rewards himself, but lay a foundation for a bright future at City, and perhaps even birth the next Thiago.