Name: Thiago Alcántara
Club: FC Barcelona
Debut: 17 May 2009 v RCD Mallorca (Liga)
Date of birth: 11/04/91
Dubbed the next Xavi Hernández in both the Barcelona and Spain midfield, 19-year-old Thiago already appears more than comfortable with the ever growing expectation placed upon his shoulders. The son of 1994 FIFA World Cup winner Mazinho and former volleyball player Valeria, Thiago has been surrounded by sporting excellence since his birth in Bari, southern Italy.
With Mazinho's career latterly taking him to Valencia CF and RC Celta de Vigo in Spain, Thiago began to attract the attention of several high-profile clubs before opting to join Barça aged 14.
Rising up through the youth ranks, Thiago – already renowned for his instinctive passing and ability to run at defenders – was incorporated into the Spanish national setup. Indeed, he was a key part of his country's 2008 UEFA European Under-17 Championship triumph, scoring the third goal in their 4-0 final win against France.
The following year he made his debut in Josep Guardiola's championship-winning side, coming on as a substitute in the Liga defeat at RCD Mallorca. He followed that with his first league goal in the 2009/10 season, a deflected effort in the 4-0 triumph against Real Racing Club.
Thiago's progress was further underlined by an assured performance on his UEFA Champions League debut against FC Rubin Kazan in December 2010; the Spaniard supplied Andreu Fontàs for Barcelona's opening goal on their way to a 2-0 victory.
FC Barcelona 5-1 AD Ceuta
10/11/10, Copa del Rey
A comprehensive first-leg victory took the pressure off Barça and Guardiola filled his team with up-and-coming players for the return fixture. Thiago performed sublimely throughout and engineered two spectacular assists for team-mates Gabriel Milito and Lionel Messi.
"This was exactly what I wanted to experience.
It was a dream come true to make my debut in the top flight, the most marvellous sensation in the world."
On his first-team bow against Mallorca
"I never had a footballing idol as such because having my father by my side to give me advice was worth so much more than any player you would see on television. My idol came in double form – dad and player."
On his role model
"You can't be doing things like that at his age – at 30 maybe. It's enough to hug your team-mates and get back to work. We have to bring him back down to earth a little."
Guardiola on Thiago's celebrations following his first senior goal
"He's unique in so many ways. The club understands that he must be in the first team and he will be.
He can bring us things that we don't often have and he does things that sometimes make you say 'wow'."
Guardiola this time offers praise
"He is technically a great player with great qualities, and is still very young. He has great control and great vision. I think he will be a very important player here in the next few years."
Barcelona team-mate Pedro Rodríguez
"The kid has evolved well over the past two seasons. Several teams have called asking about him – some from overseas – but we are clear the priority is Barcelona and I'm convinced that is where he will stay."
Father Mazinho on Thiago's development and future
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