Manchester United should beware the ‘Barcelona DNA Syndrome’ suffered by Arsenal who lost their former captain Cesc Fabregas returned to his boyhood club in Catalonia after 8 years in the Premier League.
Manchester United are heavily linked with a move for Barcelona youngster Thiago Alcantara who is reportedly the subject of a £15 million bid and a £6.2 million-a-year contract to bring him to Old Trafford this summer.
United desperately require more creativity in their midfield with the retirement of veteran Paul Scholes and the potential outgoing of Wayne Rooney who handed in a contract request (according to Sir Alex Ferguson) at the end of the season.
Rooney had been deployed by the outgoing boss as more of an attacking midfielder or playmaker this term since the arrival of Golden Boot winner Robin van Persie from Arsenal. Whilst United also signed Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund last summer, his inconsistent fitness and form meant Rooney was often left with the creative burden.
United had in recent months also been linked with a sensational bid for Cesc Fabregas but the player has since dismissed any such interest as genuine and insists his future remains at the Camp Nou.
Fabregas joined the Gunners as a 16-year-old back in 2003 after failing to force his way into the Catalans’ first team where his preferred position was (and still is) occupied by the likes of Xavi and Andres Iniesta, undoubtedly two of the greatest midfielders the game has ever seen.
But, after 8 years in North London, Barcelona were keen to get ‘their’ man back – they started talking up his ‘Barca DNA’ and suggesting he belonged with them at least two years before Arsenal finally caved in and sold him in 2011.
Should Manchester United be concerned about the potential for the same scenario to play out with Alcantara? He’s just as highly-rated (if not more so) than Fabregas was and he has spent longer developing as Barcelona youngster than his elder teammate did.
At 22 years old, he more developed and, arguably, consists of more ‘Barca DNA’ than Fabregas ever did and what’s more, the Catalans seem a little reluctant to let him go if reports of them ardently trying to persuade him to stay and negotiate terms of a new contract which, conveniently include a higher release fee clause, are to be believed.
There must be a small concern that Barcelona seem to think they own players even if they sell them but, alas, if Alcantara choses to swap the Spanish champions for the English champions its unlikely he’ll ever look back over his shoulder. Unless, of course, Barcelona start talking their talk again a few years down the line, say when Xavi retires.
But, even so, Manchester United ought not to pay too much attention to them - the Red Devils will get the best years in the career of one of the most exciting talents in the world. If Barcelona wanted him that badly, they should have put a higher price on him in the first place.
He'll probably end up being worth double that fee in little more than a year's time and presuming he signs at the very least a four-year deal with United, he'll be at the peak of his powers by the time that deal gets anywhere near expiring, by which time he could well be worth way more than the £35 million Barcelona paid Arsenal for the return of a 24-year-old Cesc Fabregas.
image: © castroquini2011