Manchester United have been strongly linked with signing Barcelona’s young star, Thiago, and the speculation has increased this week. Gerard Pique, who left Barcelona for Manchester, only to return a few years later, has advised Thiago to stay put. “There is a possibility that he could leave but we have to convince him that the best place for him is Barcelona. Players in his position like Xavi were patient and they ended up defining an era.”

A couple of years ago, Xavi revealed that when he wasn’t getting many games at Barcelona at the beginning of his career that he almost signed for United.

“There was a long time when I genuinely thought about accepting United’s offer and moving to Manchester,” he said. “I needed a change of scenery and things were not going well for me at Barcelona. I have always felt a real attachment to English football and Manchester United would be my club in England. The truth was that for a long chunk of my career, when it looked like I was the successor to Pep Guardiola in midfield, I was made to feel like an outsider, a bad guy for taking over from the legendary captain. We are not good at handling change here. The new guy is sometimes looked at like the bad guy. What made the difference is that I’m as stubborn as a mule. I thought about going to United but I dug my heels in. I was obstinate and I said to myself ‘I need to prove myself here’.”

With Pique making a U-turn and Xavi opting to stay put, with both of them going on to win plenty of league titles, European Cups and other medals, Thiago isn’t surrounded by the influences that United fans would choose.

However, Italian-born and Brazilian-raised Thiago doesn’t necessarily feel the same way about the Catalan club as the likes of Pique and Xavi do, which could mean a move is on the cards.

“I would be lying if I said that my dream is to succeed at Barca,” he admitted two years ago. “My dream is to succeed in football. I want to be a player who people remember for ever.”

In response to this comment, Barca offered him a new contract that set his release clause at €90 million. However, failure to participate for a stipulated amount of minutes in 2012-13 has now seen that clause plummet to just €18m plus IVA tax.

So if Pique can’t convince Thiago to stay, there is one player who might be able to persuade him that his future lies in Manchester, with his release clause making him an appealing bargain for the penny pitching Glazers, and that is David de Gea. Spain won the European U-21 Championship this week and Thiago scored a first half hattrick in their 4-2 win over Italy. Thiago was interviewed after the game and photos quickly emerged of his match ball with “Nos vemos en Manchester” written on it. Which means? “See you in Manchester”.

People (with more time than me) quickly took to eBay to look for signed pictures and shirts, showing that the handwriting looked like De Gea’s. This information quickly circulated, prompting De Gea to explain what he meant by this comment.

“We talked and joked, but Barcelona knows they have a crack [great player] with them and won’t let him go,” he said. “Hopefully next season I’ll have a Spanish partner in the team. As a player of Manchester United, I would hope to have a partner like Thiago, who is very good. In any team you would like to have a partner like Thiago.”

Whilst De Gea reckons Barcelona won’t let him leave, Catalan newspaper Sport reported earlier this week that Thiago had made his mind up and was ready to go. United and Bayern Munich are both prepared to pay his release clause, £15m (or £18.5m including IVA tax), but United are apparently the club he would prefer. Whilst the Germans have Pep Guardiola, who knows him well from his time at Barca, United reportedly appeals to Thiago more and he would likely get more first team football with us. With the World Cup in Brazil just a year away, playing regularly for United would certainly boost his chances of getting a call up rather than warming Barcelona’s bench. Last season Thiago made 27 appearances in the league but only 15 of those were starts, and he played the full 90 minutes in just 8 of those. At United, it would almost certainly be a different story.

Of course we’d be foolish to believe every story that linked us to a player, but this rumour certainly has some credibility, so watch this space!

Credit to Jonas Giæver for the original picture of the ball.