Spain captain Thiago Alcántara is seeking to become only the 11th player to win back-to-back UEFA European Under-21 Championship titles. The FC Barcelona midfielder took time out from his preparations to speak to UEFA.com about Tuesday's final, La Rojita's style of play and being inspired by his father.
Thiago has been a mainstay of the Spanish midfield, missing just 11 minutes of the final tournament in Israel as Julen Lopetegui's side took Group B by storm and put three past Norway without reply in the semi-final. The 22-year-old is also thriving in his role as captain and, despite having already scooped four Liga titles and a UEFA Champions League winners' medal with Barcelona, he still craves what would be an "unbelievable" triumph against Italy in Jerusalem.
"[I have thought about the final] only in dreams, scoring the winning goal and lifting the trophy with my team-mates," the former Barça trainee said. "We can only wait and see what happens on the pitch. Certainly, we will study the opposition very well, so that we know how to approach the game and win it.
"I've been part of the U21s for a long time and that's why I am captain. It's an honour to have the armband but I don't think I'm the only leader. We're 23 leaders and we understand each other very well."
While adding to his already impressive medal haul is important to Thiago, the way he wins and the style of football that Spain play is also a crucial factor. "We are faithful to our way of playing," he said. "I think it's always nicer to reach the highest level that way.
We all have to keep the ball and have the desire to play from the goalkeeper to the forwards. I believe that's what makes this a harmonious group. We all want to play the same way, and we're all ready to sacrifice ourselves for our team-mates as well."
Thiago cuts a diminutive figure in central midfield but his passing range, creativity and tireless work rate are all characteristics the Barcelona schemer learned from his father, 1994 FIFA World Cup winner Mazinho, as well as the current crop at Camp Nou. "In the old days it was my father [who inspired me], in every sense," he continued. "The life that he had and the way that he played. In the teams he played for, I looked at the star players like [Predrag] Mijatović at Valencia and [Aleksandr] Mostovoi at Celta.
"They were great footballers and I'm always talking about attackers. Nowadays I share a dressing room with football greats like Xavi [Hernández], Andrés [Iniesta], Leo [Messi], [Gerard] Piqué, [Carles] Puyol, [Víctor] Valdés. These players are not only important individuals but also part of the squad. I have learned a little bit from all of the players in the Barça squad in terms of developing myself as a player."
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