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Pique eager for Thiago stay

Gerard Pique has urged Barcelona to retain the services of reported Manchester United target Thiago Alcantara after the midfielder scored a hat-trick in Spain's 4-2 win over Italy in the European Under-21 Championship final.

- Atkins: Thiago hat-trick decides final

Alcantara, who is said to have an €18million buy-out clause that will increase after July 31, has captained Spain during the tournament in Israel and was a key member of the side that won the tournament in 2011.

However, his future at the Camp Nou has been the subject of conjecture after he made just 15 starts in La Liga last season, as he faces competition from the likes of Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez.

According to reports in Spain, he has already decided to leave Barcelona, with United and Bayern Munich reportedly the two clubs that have shown the most interest in him.

Speaking to radio programme Al Primer Toque on Onda Cero, Pique said of his compatriot: "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. When you watch them and see how superior they have been in this tournament you realise that the future is very positive."

Pique also commented on Barca's reported intent to buy a centre-back this summer, while reaffirming his faith in usual defensive partner Carles Puyol, who is about to undergo a third operation on his right knee in the last 13 months.

"I understand why Barcelona want to strengthen in the centre-back position because last season we suffered a lot from injuries,'' Pique said.

"All the names that have been linked with the club are very good players and we will welcome any new arrival. But I think we should remember we still have Puyol and if he starts to get fit again he will still be among the top five centre-backs in the world.''

Information from the Press Association was used in this report.


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