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Barca launch bid to keep Thiago

Barcelona are making a desperate and concerted last-ditch attempt to keep Thiago Alcantara at Camp Nou and prevent a widely anticipated transfer to Manchester United.

Sources privy to the negotiations have told ESPN that the Catalan club have tried a number of "stalling tactics" with both Old Trafford officials and the player himself, in order to halt any deal and persuade the midfielder to stay. Although United still feel confident of eventually securing the purchase, they are getting "increasingly frustrated" and ideally want to have it tied up within the next seven days - especially with Chelsea and, to a lesser extent, Bayern Munich hovering.

The Premier League champions have agreed personal terms with Thiago and are set to more than treble his wages, but the player’s camp are open to at least weighing up what Barcelona have to say. It is understood that the Catalans were "stunned" at the reality that the playmaker would actually go through with a move, and have been moved into sudden action. One Old Trafford source likened it to United’s reaction at the realisation that Paul Pogba was intent on leaving for Juventus.

Barcelona, however, are now prepared to offer Thiago much greater guarantees and are particularly playing up the idea that he is the successor to a 33-year-old Xavi. The Spanish legend will likely play less next season, simply as a consequence of the accumulation of fixtures over the past five years as well as his age.

Thiago’s main concern at the moment is getting as much football as possible, in order to force his way into Spain’s World Cup squad. As such, Barca will essentially have to come close to matching United’s assurances that the 22-year-old will be a certain starter.

Any prospective transfer is also not quite so simple as the Old Trafford club just triggering his release clause to take Barcelona out of the equation. Even then, a number of terms about any deal still have to be agreed between the clubs. The Catalans have in the meantime attempted to leverage that situation, while also requesting a first-refusal in the event of any transfer.

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