Manchester United are in a tussle with Barcelona for Thiago Alcântara with the midfielder minded to stay at the Camp Nou if he is guaranteed regular playing time next season.

The 22-year-old currently earns around €35,000 (£30,000) a week so the English champions would offer him greatly improved terms. Yet with Barcelona wanting him to stay and become a mainstay of the team Thiago, whose current deal expires in 2015, could use United's interest as leverage to sign a more lucrative contract with the Catalan club.

Thiago was the star performer in Spain's triumph this week at the European Under-21 Championship in Israel, with the Italian-born son of Mazinho, the Brazilian 1994 World Cup winner, scoring a hat-trick in Tuesday's 4-2 final win over Italy.

According to reports Thiago has a release clause of around £17m and while United may be prepared to trigger this, it is understood his preference is to remain at Barcelona under Tito Vilanova though assurances are required that there will be more than the 15 La Liga starts handed to him during the last campaign.

This means that whether Thiago becomes David Moyes's first significant signing since succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson as United manager will depend on the player being persuaded that his future should be with Barcelona, where he came through the Spanish champion's junior ranks after joining as a teenager.

Gerard Piqué and Xavi, two of Barcelona's senior first-team players, recently voiced hopes that Thiago would stay at the club. Speaking to radio programme station Onda Cero, Piqué said: "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."

While Thiago is in competition with Xavi, at 33 the latter is becoming more hampered by injuries increasing the former's prospects of a regular starting berth under Vilanova. Xavi said: "I'd advise Thiago to stay patient because he's a player who is bound to be a success at Barça. I think he is an extraordinary player. Thiago is not just a player for the future, but he is someone who can make an impact right now."

In addition to captaining Spain to the Under-21 triumph over Italy, Thiago also has the experience of playing twice for the all-conquering senior side. With Michael Carrick the only established central midfielder Moyes requires serious reinforcements in this department and Thiago's attacking style plus his ability to beat players suggests he would be an ideal addition to the Scot's squad.