Bayern's Thiago amazed by China's football enthusiasm

By Oliver Trust

BERLIN, July 15 (Xinhua) -- Bayern Munich's Spanish midfielder Thiago is amazed by China's enthusiasm for football. When recently interviewed by Xinhua, the 26-year old said that he had the impression from his last tour there that there were millions of keen kids wanting to play the game and learn all about it. He is looking forward to visiting the country again this year especially after the overwhelming welcome given to the Bavarian club the last time around. The thousands of people at the airport awaiting their arrival was akin to an obligation to return, said the Spaniard.

Thiago is part of the Bayern Munich squad when the 2013 Champions League winner takes off for China and Singapore on Sunday evening. Thiago and Bayern will face Premier League Arsenal in Shanghai on July 19, the top Italian club AC Milan in Shenzhen on July 22 and then Chelsea and Inter Milan in Singapore on July 25 and 27.

Thiago feels China's football is on the right track in respect of the way the game and education is developing. In his eyes, the main task for the country is to develop as many young talents as possible. Most of the money invested, he said, should go to coaching the youngsters and the coaches for young footballers. It is the most important task for a country like China to create a solid fundament for the future.

His advice is for them to be patient and go step by step. It will take some years for China's football to become top class. "But they're getting closer and closer," Thiago said. He remembers his schooling when a junior and the hours of honing his skill. A vital part of coaching juniors in his opinion is instilling fun. The unique joy youngsters have playing together in a team is strong motivation for further development.

Thiago said he is very much looking forward to seeing the skyline of Shanghai again. He remembers the special moments from the 2015 trip to China when he and his teammates looked out onto the skyline from a rooftop. "You just stand there and watch the lights and the size. It is amazing," Thiago told Xinhua. One could feel the creative energy of an entire country at a single spot.

As several new players such as Corentin Tolisso (Lyon), James (Real Madrid), Niklas Suele and Sebastian Rudy (TSG Hoffenheim) have joined Bayern this summer, Thiago is optimistic that his side will again play a major role in national and international football. The corporate identity of Bayern is according to Thiago an intense team spirit. The team in Munich will remain more or less at the same level.

A club like Bayern is true to the fundamentals of football such as a team playing as a team. Big names are not really needed he said and agrees with the club in refusing to pay over 100 million euro for a single player. His side is still at the same level as other European top clubs like Barcelona or Real Madrid Thiago is convinced.

Thiago recently was voted "Player of the Year" by Bayern fans. In the majority of games, the Spaniard directed play from the midfield. Together with Arturo Vidal, Thiago was one of the most effective midfielders in European football. Averaging 95 passes, he was the best in the top five European leagues. Over 90 per cent of his passes found the target.

4.6 interceptions per game are proof of Thiago's defensive qualities especially when it comes to recapturing the ball. On average Thiago produced 1.8 key passes that directly lead to a goal-scoring opportunity which is as well a top figure.

Most of the time he played behind central striker Robert Lewandowski but was also to be found directly in front of Bayern's defense. Last season the Spaniard benefitted from an injury-free pre-season and season. It, he said, gave him a lot of confidence and allowed him to get into the game right away.

Thiago has also invented the chipped pass over the opponent's defense for his teammates up front to run on to. The forwards are happy as it gives them an additional option.

Thiago stressed that he is happy in Munich, so much that he recently extended his contract until 2021. His son Gabriel was born in Munich in May 2017. His family feels at home in the Bavarian city Thiago told German media.

Pundits say Thiago is in the form of his life and some feel he has developed to one of the world's best midfielders after joining Bayern from Barcelona for 25 million euro in 2013.

Training methods for him have been adjusted for his special needs to avoid further knee injuries causing longer breaks. Bayern's coaches seem to have found the right way to get the best out of their Spanish passing machine.

And Thiago himself loves to be called Bayern's midfield general. He loves to read the game and feel the right moment for the right thing to do. Football is about team spirit he loves to stress but at the same time football is about strategy and leadership to the benefit of all. Nobody doubts these days that Thiago is Bayern's strategic leader.

[ Editor: meng ]


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