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Just had an interesting discussion on Twitter that, of course, became the seed for a post, on the ones that got away and the reactions of supporters.
These days, no word can spark a spirited discussion like “Thiago.” Culers are never on the fence with this one, be it that Vilanova and the board cast him to the waves in a little papyrus basket, or he’s a little ingrate. After all the club did for him … .
There are many ways to look at the situation, but let’s take a broader view, for all the exes out there.
Let’s start with a question: Does anyone care about Gai Assulin?
I know … who? People with good memories will recall that he was “the next Messi,” a winger/mid of astounding talent, etc, etc, who wanted promotion and first-team status. Threats were made, he got some playing time, and suddenly he was sold for a pittance, to Spurs. He’s now playing with Hercules in Segunda. Not sure how he feels about seeing the Barça B shirts these days.
Here’s another question: Bojan Krkic? The “Boy of a Thousand Goals” and his entourage snitted it up until the hand of the club and its coach, Frank Rijkaard, were forced, and he was promoted. He did some good, did some bad, ultimately regressed and was then sloaned (heh … see what I did there?) to Roma before working his way to Milan, and now Ajax. Word is that he isn’t coming back to Barça.
What’s the difference between Assulin, Krkic and Thiago Alcantara? Let’s have a look, to be sure before we make any calls.
All three are Masia products, who wanted more playing time and first-team status. All three were hugely talented and much-lauded. All three got playing time with the first team, with good and bad results. Only Assulin was clearly not ready. All three left the club for a more promising future with a different club.
So. Now what? The biggest difference, for me, is talent and up side. Culers get so bothered about Thiago because he’s the real deal, rather than a Never Was or a Probably Will Never Be. But I wonder about other levels of that anger.
To recap, Thiago Alcantara had a clause in his contract, put there and agreed to by the sporting negotiatiors, that if he didn’t play a specified time amount in 60% of the first-team matches, his buyout clause would activate and he could leave for a seeming fraction of his true worth. He didn’t meet the specified standard, the buyout clause was activated and Bayern Munich swooped in.
And damn him, he’s playing well at Bayern. How dare he rub our faces in his quality?
And because questions are all the rage, these days, would anyone be at all mad at him had he gone to Bayern and flopped? Anyone who says “Yes,” should plumb their souls for the rage at Assulin and Krkic and compare the quantities.
Further riling culers is an alleged Thiago quote that he would rather be in a German hospital than sitting on a Catalan bench. Oh, boy! It’s like he talked about Xavi’s mama, or something. But let’s assume for a moment that the quote isn’t fabricated, as so many inflammatory quotes such as that one are. You can construe it a couple of ways:
1. That little weasel is slagging the club that did so much for him. He needs to shut up. Shame!
2. Even at Bayern, recovering from injury, he has a spot and the playing time he wants, rather than a bench role at Barça.
And now for the wild card round: Why aren’t people mad at Pep Guardiola, who left the club for a rival European giant that, if the they have their way, would stomp us, then grind our bones to make Bayern bread. What is the difference?
No, not suggesting that anyone have any animus toward Guardiola. Not at all. Culers will say, “He gave us so much that we can’t be mad at him.” But you know what? So did Thiago. And here’s another thing: Both are employees, who have the right to leave, seek a better situation, steal pens and pee in the water cooler on their last day. Makes sense to me.
A modern footballer is no different than any of us. If, in your current job, a competitor found you and offered you more money, status and responsibilities, who wouldn’t leap at the chance? That’s what Thiago Alcantara did. It’s as simple as that. He owes Barça nothing. The club gave him his start, fostered his talent, built him as a player and in exchange, the club got goals, passes, victories and reaped the fruits of his labors. Done. Fair trade.
During the protracted “will he or won’t he?” process, stories were planted in Barça-centric media that made him out to be a spoiled, greedy little shit, rather than an athlete looking out for his own best interest, as all athletes should. Vexing for him? Almost certainly. Did he say anything about it at the time? Nope. If that quote is in fact reality, is that a little bit of that rancor coming out? Probably, and why shouldn’t it?
Further, it shouldn’t matter how he left. He’s still gone. Even if board members skulked over to his house, spray-painted slogans on his garage, rang his doorbell and ran, so what? Still gone. Real reasons, rationales, none of it matters in the face of the reality that dude is gone.
And why should it matter? He’s a Bayern player now. If he said “And the water in Barcelona tastes like turds compared to the water in Munich,” it wouldn’t matter a whit to me. Because he’s a Bayern player. Further, he’s an ex-employee who made what was, for him, the best decision about his future. Of course he is happier there. He has playing time and status, and he isn’t looking at Xavi, Iniesta and Fabregas, wondering where the hell his playing time is going to come from. He isn’t looking at the Neymar purchase, and wondering about his possibilities for raising hell on left wing. Duh. Only a fool wouldn’t be happier.
Should ex-players say stuff like, “I’m starting, supermodels are feeding me ice cream and I have a new Ferrari, but I will always have Barça in my heart.” Sheeeit! Come on now, people. Does it say anything bad about their former employer when a player says that he is happy at his new club, and it was the best decision he could have made? Only if you construe it that way, as you sleep with rancor. For the player, it’s true. It doesn’t mean, in Thiago’s case, “Barça sucks and Bayern rules,” but simply that he made the right call for him, and is very happy about it. Done.
So when you think about Thiago and some statement, some pass he made, goal he scored, something or other and you start getting all riled up, think about yourself. There you are on TV, and someone asks you if you are happier at your new job. Are you going to decline to answer, mouth platitudes or sit there with ice cream-smeared lips, grin and say, directly or indirectly, “Duh!” Most likely the latter. And it doesn’t matter to your former employer, because you’re gone and have moved on. And they should have moved on.
Why should it be any different for football clubs and their supporters, in this modern game in these modern times?