Manchester United target Barcelona starlet Thiago Alcantara

The £15m-rated midfielder is also on the radar of Manchester City this summer, with the 22-year-old keen to leave Camp Nou in the pursuit of greater first-team opportunities
By Paul Clennam

Manchester United's new manager David Moyes has identified Barcelona midfielder Thiago Alcantara as a key transfer target this summer, Goal understands.

The former Everton boss, who arrived at Carrington on Monday to meet with club staff after replacing Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford, is set to maintain United's long-standing interest in the 22-year-old.

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Sir Alex made informal enquiries regarding the youngster's availability two years ago but was rebuffed by Barcelona, who rewarded Thiago with a four-year contract in 2011.

Thiago has been deployed as both a creative and deep–lying pivot midfielder at Camp Nou since making his debut in 2009, but has seen his first-team opportunities restricted following the arrivals of Cesc Fabregas and Alex Song from Arsenal.

The midfielder has a release clause of €90 million (£77m) in his current contract with the Spanish champions - though reports in Spain have suggested this may have been dropped to as low as €17m (£14.5m) in recent weeks.

As such, Old Trafford officials are confident a bid of around £15m could be enough to tempt Barcelona into selling their man.

United also feel that his wage demands would fit comfortably within the club's current salary structure.

However, the Premier League champions could face competition from neighbours Manchester City in the race to sign the Spain international.

By Pilar Suarez
Thiago Alcantara's name always appears with the approach of the transfer market. Today once again he is linked with the Premier League, because a player like him does not go unnoticed because of his elegance on the ball which makes us compare him to Xavi Hernandez.

A perfect '4 ' he has been admired by Pep Guardiola, but also by Tito Vilanova. At Barca, he seems to be the perfect replacement for Xavi.

The midfielder has a contract until 2015 and if let go, it would only be as loan, because to buy would cost around €25 million (£21m).

Last season, Thiago played 1283 minutes in the league, starting 14 games and a substitute in 11 - 537 minutes less than Guardiola's last season, which prompted renewed speculation that the player could have more minutes in another team, Tito Vilanova however thinks he is still too young to be confirmed as a starter in the team.
City executive Brian Marwood met with the youngster's father Mazinho – who acts as the midfielder's representative – in Barcelona last summer, while director of football Txiki Begiristain and chief executive Ferran Soriano have also kept tabs on the 22-year-old.

Begiristain maintains a detailed knowledge of the Barcelona pay structure after his seven-year spell under former Camp Nou supremo Joan Laporta, and is keen to replicate the Catalans' model both on and off the pitch at Eastlands.

Reports in Spain on Wednesday also suggested that incoming Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola would be keen to rekindle his relationship with the former Flamengo youth star.

Quoted in March, Thiago's father spoke of his son's desire to gain more first-team football, and hinted that he would consider a move away from the Blaugrana.

"My son would play a lot more in any other team in the world," he said. "He's learning a lot playing with great players but Thiago is very ambitious and needs to play.

"No-one knows what might happen in the future. Football changes a lot and anything can happen. If Thiago wants to go to the 2014 World Cup, he needs to play much more.

"Thiago has the quality to succeed at Barca. But he'd play a lot more at another club. He'd get into any other team in the world."