Thiago Alcantara was born in San Pietro Vernotico, Italy, when his father was playing for nearby U.S. Lecce. He is the son of the Brazilian former footballer and 1994 World Cup winner Mazinho (player for the Brazilian national team from 1989 to 1994). His mother, Valéria Alcântara, was a former volleyball player. His younger brother, Rafinha, plays for FC Barcelona and the Brazilian national team. Rodrigo, who also played for Spain, is a lifelong friend and not a cousin as has been erroneously reported. Thiago started at the lower levels of Flamengo in Brazil, and, at the age of five, moved to Spain with his father, and started playing with Galician team Ureca in Nigrán. He is a highly creative and technically gifted playmaker, with excellent dribbling skills and ball control, which allows him to operate effectively in a deep-seated playmaking role as a central midfielder, although he is also capable of playing in a more advanced role as an attacking midfielder. He has been noted for his accurate distribution of the ball, as he possesses great passing technique and vision, and maintained a 90.2% pass success rate throughout the 2016–17 Bundesliga season, higher than any other player in Germany.