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2013: Thiago Alcántara

Published: Friday 26 July 2013, 13.17CET
Influential in Spain's 2011 UEFA European Under-21 Championship success, Thiago Alcántara played an even more prominent role retaining the title two years later in Israel.
2013: Thiago Alcántara
Thiago Alcántara is all smiles lifting the UEFA European Under-21 Championship trophy for a second time ©Getty Images
Published: Friday 26 July 2013, 13.17CET

2013: Thiago Alcántara

Influential in Spain's 2011 UEFA European Under-21 Championship success, Thiago Alcántara played an even more prominent role retaining the title two years later in Israel.

Thiago Alcántara was no stranger to success going into the 2013 UEFA European Under-21 Championship in Israel. The midfielder grew up under the guidance of his father Mazinho, a 1994 FIFA World Cup winner with Brazil, and witnessed the accumulation of four Spanish Liga titles and a UEFA Champions League crown as an FC Barcelona player.

Indeed, having also scored in Spain's 2-0 victory over Switzerland in the 2011 Under-21 final in Denmark, the 22-year-old proved the perfect anchor around which coach Julen Lopetegui could build his 2013 team. Thiago was named captain and emerged as the focal point of a strong Spain midfield which also contained the likes of Isco and Cristian Tello. La Rojita were set on their way to an opening win against Russia in Group B thanks to Thiago's right-sided free-kick converted by Álvaro Morata's back-header.

A measured display followed as Spain eliminated Germany before a commanding performance in the 3-0 success against the Netherlands which helped Lopetegui's charges top their section. Thiago was withdrawn with 11 minutes left of that Oranje triumph – the only playing time he missed during the tournament – and was suitably rested to shine in the semi-final against Norway and then the final.

The playmaker really came into his own during the Jerusalem showpiece, recording the first-ever hat-trick in a one-off U21 final as Spain beat Italy 4-2 to retain their title. Vision, skill and a vast range of passing were all evident throughout but Thiago's perfect treble – a header, left-footed strike and coolly taken penalty – elevated him above the rest.

It was a showing that not only justified the No10's role as fulcrum of the Spain team but warranted the player of the tournament award. A subsequent transfer from Camp Nou to FC Bayern München ensued, with the 2012/13 UEFA Champions League winners adding a significant talent to their impressive crop of midfielders.

Last updated: 04/09/13 20.26CET

http://www.uefa.com/under21/season=2013/golden-player/index.html#2013+thiago+alcantara

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