Stats - Three areas Manchester United target Thiago is ahead of Iniesta

Andres Iniesta

Just how good is the player Manchester United are trying to tempt away from Barcelona?

The answer to that question is very good, extremely in fact.

It is a widely held belief that Andres Iniesta might just be the greatest midfielder of his generation, with only teammate Xavi close to him.

The first half exhibition Iniesta put on against Uruguay in the Confederations Cup last week was a dream reel of sequences, reminiscent of Zinedine Zidane gliding past players in his pomp.

One of the players he is keeping out of the side at Barcelona is 22-year-old Thiago Alcantara, voted the best performer at the under-21 European Championships.

Manchester United are attempting to snap him up by taking advantage of a release clause in his contract, and if they did they will be buying quite a special player indeed.

While Andres Iniesta reigned supreme over Thiago for Barcelona last season in key areas such as goals, assists, key passes and dribbling, the youngster also outperformed him in three categories.

Passing accuracy

Thiago did manage 15 La Liga starts last season for Barcelona, and slotted straight into their system when he was selected. He completed 91.8 per cent of his passes, 1,616 in total, bettering Iniesta's pass completion rate of 90.5 per cent, 2,029 in total.

Tackling

Thiago's combative nature in midfield is an underrated part of his game. He made 43 tackles, just three less than Cesc Fabregas who made double the number of starts as he did. Thiago's average number of completed tackles per game was recorded at 1.6, bettering Andres Iniesta's 1.1 tackles per game.

Interceptions

No midfielder in Spain's under-21 squad made more interceptions at this summer's tournament than Thiago, and this is also an area in which he bettered Iniesta last season. His expert reading of the game saw him make 36 interceptions in total, more than double the 15 Iniesta made all season.

While nobody here is suggesting Thiago is a better all round player than Iniesta at present, the above provides an interesting look at how the 22-year-old compares in certain areas to the great man.

He is certainly more advanced in terms of his footballing development at his age than late bloomer Iniesta was and his excellent potential illustrates just why Manchester United are so keen to snap him up and Barcelona to keep him.

image: © grb1989

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