Alexis Sanchez – How long before he’s at Barca, Real or Man City?

by Charlie Coffey

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

While Serie A fans have been aware of the talents of Udinese’s Alexis Sanchez for some time now, it can’t be long before he becomes a household name a la Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Another mesmeric strike from the Chilean at the weekend and two assists for striker partner Antonio Di Natale make his performance in the 4-0 drubbing of Cagliari just the latest in a string of outstanding performances for the Bianconeri, who are sitting in fourth place and have a good chance to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in six seasons.

Sanchez’s raw pace, silken skills and creativity are reminiscent of Ronaldo, as is his love affair with the step-over. Indeed his evolution as a player has taken a similar path to that of the Portuguese, in that he has become a much more effective, direct weapon since his manager shifted him into a central striking role. At the start of the season Sanchez was starting either on the right wing or even on the bench. Then, on Halloween of last year, he was played up front with Di Natale and scored in a 2-0 win – his first goal of the season on his tenth performance.

Although that was a promising start, Sanchez was moved back to the wing. The presence of fellow strikers Bernardo Corradi, German Denis and Antonio Floro Flores kept him out wide, where his pace and trickery made him a constant threat, and at the half-way point of the Serie A season he had completed more dribbles than any other player in the league. In the next few games head coach Francesco Guidolin rotated Sanchez and Floro Flores in the central role alongside the prolific Di Natale.

Ironically it was a 3-2 loss to Lazio on 19th December that changed the fortunes of Udinese’s season for the better. Sanchez started up front, scored, and started on a red hot streak of form that has seen him score 11 goals in his last 12 games. He impressed so much in the role that the club allowed Floro Flores to join Genoa on loan for the rest of the season with the option of an 8.5 million Euro transfer in the summer, making way for Sanchez and Di Natale to gel into a highly effective partnership. He has now scored 12 goals in 26 Serie A performances so far this season, more than twice as many as he managed from the wing last season and exactly the same number as he has scored in his 32 appearances for Chile.

It is almost certain that Sanchez will make the big-money transfer his talents demands in the summer. Udinese are a selling club, making progress by buying young, developing and selling talent on for an increased transfer fee which they then use to buy more youngsters. In past seasons players such as Italian internationals Fabio Quagliarella and Vincenzo Iaquinta have been bought and sold in this manner. Di Natale has broken that mould by committing himself to Udinese for the remainder of his career, but while Sanchez is no doubt grateful for the progress he has made in Udine as a player, there is no doubt he will be keen to make a move to one of the biggest clubs in the world.

Barcelona’s scouts were present to watch Sanchez score four as Udinese demolished Palermo 7-0 in Sicily last month, a result which ended the tenure of Delio Rossi as Palermo’s head coach and which earned Sanchez a place in my11’s weekly Golazo video (56 seconds in):

As a winger-turned-striker Barca’s 4-3-3 would suit Sanchez perfectly but as with any player who joins Barca, irrespective of their class or reputation, he is not guaranteed regular first team football. Just ask Javier Mascherano.

Sir Alex Ferguson is well aware of Sanchez’s ability, saying: “He’s a young player with a very promising future. Sanchez has so much talent that if he continues his progression, he could reach the level of Cristiano Ronaldo.” Sanchez need only to look at Ronaldo’s progression from a lanky show pony to a ripped goal machine and the highest-paid player in the world to see how Ferguson could help develop him as a player but then nobody, not even the man himself it seems, is sure how many more years he will remain at Old Trafford, and what will happen to the club after that point. Any offer United were to make would of course be limited by how much money the Glazer family make available.

If Sanchez is motivated by money, it is likely he will be tempted by Manchester City, who have the financial clout to outbid any other club. If City qualify for the Champions League for the first time in their history it is likely that they will be able to make signings of Sanchez’s quality, but then the player might want to stay in Italy, where his career has flourished so far.

Although he did not score in this particular match (but did provide an assist), Sanchez’s stunning performance against Inter Milan in a 3-1 win over the treble winners towards the end of the January transfer window led to widespread rumours that Inter were going to swoop for him in January, and also that Chelsea were lining up a £26m bid, but Guidolin said (to Italian TV station Rai Due): “I know Udinese is a serious club. The club have reiterated that Sanchez will remain at Udinese until the end of the season and I have no doubts on this matter.

“Of course, if a tempting offer would arrive it would be right for the club to evaluate it but I believe that Alexis can still grow from here on until the end of the season if he stayed with us.

“After that, he is destined, considering the quality he has shown for some time, to join a top club.”

It is understandable for Udinese to want to wait until the summer so that they have more time to build up a bidding war, and to use the funds they receive to replace Sanchez with one or probably two new players. They will be sad to see him leave but, there is every chance his goals will have secured Champions League football and revenue for them next season, and they stand to make a profit of, at the very least, ten times the three million dollars they paid for him as a 17 year old.

Whether he will line-up next to Messi, Fernando Torres or Wayne Rooney next year, one club will have a player who already has many star qualities and looks set to improve as he continues to flourish in his new central role. If he continues at this rate his star is set to explode.

A glimpse of what Alexis Sanchez will bring to his future club:

Charlie Coffey

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  • Ben McAleer

    Excellent article on Sanchez. He is a great player with a huge future. I can’t see him moving to Barca for the reason you stated above. I can only see two clubs being able to afford him in Chelsea (who may opt for Lukaku) or City with the latter being the favourable of the two who, in theory, could be a replacement for Tevez if/when he leaves. As a Spurs fan, I would love to see him pull on the shirt but I can’t see it happening

  • Marc Sibbons

    Cracking player! i personally think Fergie will take him to Old Trafford in the summer, but you can never rule out Real Madrid or Man City with the financial muscle protecting them.

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