London 2012

For many there is a clear lineage to La Masia's conveyor belt of midfield maestros. In 1980, Xavi was born; 1984 brought Andres Iniesta; Cesc Fabregas arrived in 1987; and in 1992 there came Thiago Alcantara.

Thiago is the heir to the throne. The son of Brazilian World Cup winner Mazinho, he could yet eclipse them all. The early signs are certainly encouraging.

The playmaker won the European Under-17 Championships with Spain in 2008, scoring a vital equaliser against France in the group stage before slotting home a pressure penalty in the final against the same opponents.

Fascinating facts:

  • Thiago's father, Mazinho, won the World Cup with Brazil in 1994 - he was the third man in the famous 'rock-the-baby' goal celebration alongside Romario and Bebeto
  • He started at the lower levels of Flamengo and at the age of five, he moved to Spain with his father and his cousin Patrick Gude

Three years later Thiago was the star of European Under-21 tournament, firing past Switzerland's Yann Sommer from fully 40 yards out to secure the trophy.

But despite making his Barcelona debut in 2009, Thiago's involvement at club level has been largely restricted to cameo roles as Pep Guardiola takes a cautious approach to the player's development.

And yet, there remains an air of inevitability to the Italian-born youngster's rise. In fact, the chief concern appears to be that Thiago's talent is such that his success could appear too inevitable.

Spain Under-21 coach Luis Milla has noted that while Thiago has the game to emulate Xavi and Iniesta he must also learn to appreciate their humility.

Perhaps that explains Guardiola's desire to keep the 21-year-old at Barcelona playing a limited role rather than leaving the player to learn bad habits on loan elsewhere.

Eventually, however, Thiago will have to be allowed to take centre stage.

Indeed, national team boss Vicente del Bosque would appear keen to adopt the fast-track approach and has already handed the player his full international debut with Spain.

For a player itching to get the chance to show the world what he can do, the Olympics could be just the platform for Thiago to showcase his formidable talent.

Thiago Alcantara

  • DOB: 11/4/91
  • Club: Barcelona
  • Position: Midfield