Thiago Alcantara feels Bayern Munich are playing with greater freedom under Carlo Ancelotti than during Pep Guardiola’s three-year reign.
Former Barcelona youngster Thiago was Guardiola’s marquee signing ahead of his first season with the Bundesliga giants in 2013-14 – “Thiago oder nichts”, meaning “Thiago or nobody” was the Catalan’s famous transfer ultimatum to the Bayern board – but persistent fitness problems have hindered him at the Allianz Arena.
Only since Guardiola’s departure to Manchester City has he truly come to the fore as Bayern’s most reliable midfield creator and the Spain international can expect to play a pivotal part in Wednesday’s keenly anticipated Champions League quarter-final first leg against Real Madrid.
Although he was not critical of his former boss’ intense approach, Thiago believes the benefits of Ancelotti’s more freewheeling style are clear as Bayern chase down a repeat of their 2012-13 treble.
“Both as players and coaches they won everything,” he said of Ancelotti and Guardiola in an interview with El Pais.
“They have the peace of mind of those who know what the players think because they have been there.
“But they have a different character. They are great coaches with totally different ways of watching football.
“[Ancelotti] does not speak in vain. He is understood in all languages. He does not talk much but when he talks everybody listens to him and it’s like he has something important to say.
“Beyond the talks and the words and the jokes he tells you, you get to find that difference between being a coach and being a person who is with you every day and asks you how you are, how your life is going.
“He has had players of a difficult character throughout his career and they all speak well of him. That is very rare.
“With Ancelotti there is freedom. More than strategy or tactics, it’s the freedom and confidence that a coach can give you.”
— FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) April 11, 2017
Despite being a product of Barcelona’s La Masia academy, which is so closely associated to Guardiola’s trademark style, Thiago insists this freedom has helped him as a player who is keen to draw his own tactical conclusions during matches.
“I need it because I like to analyse the game, to have tactical rigor, to read the game,” he said.
“He allows it because he tells you four things so that you can interpret them your way. He conveys that everything belongs to everyone – that it is the fault of all.
“He gives you freedom so that you can hold yourself accountable.
“It is true that this is my best season as a professional – a season of maturity, a little more responsibility.
“I feel that I am living it a little more, that I am an important part of a team and this is fundamental, to have the confidence of not only your coach but your team-mates.”
A key element in Thiago’s impressive season has been his midfield alliance with Arturo Vidal and he has been wowed by the Chile international’s all action style.
“He’s a phenomenon. I’ve never seen a natural physique as potent as his,” the 26-year-old added.
“I’ve seen people stop for a month or two to recover from injuries and he totally exceeds that in two weeks.
“That shows on the field. Arturo’s presence is very important to us. He covers a lot, he covers at the defensive level.
“And the touch of the ball he has, a person who can score the goal that he scored against Benfica.
“He is very complete.”
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