El Mundo Deportivo, the Barcelona-based sports daily, have seemed resigned to Thiago Alcantara's departure from Barcelona for some time, and this morning they report that Thiago is headed to Manchester United. Other than the news that his father and agent have already met with United., there's not too much new information here, but it's a front-page spread, which seems to suggest that the deal is more or less done.
However, it may not be that simple. ESPN has a report today on Thiago too, and it makes less happy reading for United fans. According to them, Chelsea are also interested and will try to move in on the deal. United, they say, are still front-runners, but having lost out to them against Eden Hazard, it doesn't bear thinking about the same happening here.
You can point to Eden Hazard, Oscar, and Juan Mata, but the likelihood is Thiago will have to compete with Frank Lampard and Ramires for a spot in midfield behind them - it's not as ideal as it as at United, but it's certainly easy to see him getting plenty of games at Chelsea. Combined with the phenomenal wealth they have, they could certainly compete with us for his signature.
Then again, Chelsea haven't been in a title race for two years - Eden Hazard's signing was announced by the player tweeting "I'm signing for the Champions League winner", but "I'm signing for the Europa League winner" doesn't quite have the same ring (Bayern Munich's reported interest notwithstanding, but neither report makes much mention of the Bavarians, and in any case, they have a better midfield than Barcelona's.)
In short, it looks like we're still in the lead to get this one done, but if we have to compete with Chelsea, we can't afford to lose out. We *can* afford to compete with them for Thiago's wages. We can afford to blow them out of the water. We're just reluctant to do so, and by now well accustomed to that reluctance, so that it's normally met with a weary sigh rather than a temper tantrum. But losing out on two young world-class players in consecutive years to such lesser rivals as Chelsea is simply not acceptable. If there's a bidding war on, United need to pay whatever it takes to get it done.