Alexis Sanchez: Why City & Liverpool Need The Barca Outcast
He was the missing piece of the jigsaw, or so they said. Young, powerful and hungry, he was perfect. Alexis Sánchez was making headlines in Italy and clubs all over Europe were scouting him. Barca were lacking some one of his calibre and so they splashed €26m to secure his services. Guardiola believed in him and so too did the Nou Camp faithful but now the time has come for Alexis to consider a move away from the Catalan outfit.
In 2006 Udinese signed the Chilean forward and sent him out on loan. He spent one season on loan back in Chile at Colo-Colo and then he played under Diego Simeone where he won the Argentine league with River Plate. His performances there persuaded the Italian club that he was ready for and so they took the then 20 year old back and put him in the first team. He formed a lethal partnership with Antonio Di Natale and in 2011 they qualified for the Champions League. With 12 goals and six assists, he was a wanted man and Barca beat off the opposition to sign the player that some believed would give them an extra edge.
‘Sánchez is very young. He can play in all three attacking positions, he shows intense defensive skills, he's direct and from what I've been told, he's a very nice kid’ said Pep Guardiola as the player was presented to the press. The player admitted he was keen to get down to work and was delighted to have the opportunity of working with the likes Messi and Xavi. His debut would be against Real Madrid in the Supercopa and something would happen that would become a familiar occurrence during his time at Barca, he would get injured.
Two things that would become synonymous with Alexis are injuries and his lack of bite in front of goal. He was signed to offer Barca something extra and ease the burden on Messi but his determination and confidence that he displayed in Italy has gone and he is now seen as a flop at Barca.
‘Alexis came to Barcelona when we needed someone to be Messi's sidekick; the idea was that Alexis would help open spaces for Messi, assist him, and be a secondary source of goals... and we got that, except for the goals’ says Ade C, who runs the brilliant Barca Offside blog. On match days jokes and funny comments have started to become common every time he comes onto the pitch but even fans recognise his potential talent and hard work.
‘He's talented and puts in a lot of effort, but he goes through worrying slumps in form and confidence, and he gets injured a lot’ adds Ade, and that is the thing. Alexis works very hard, the problem is that most of it happens when the camera is on someone else. His off the ball work is impressive. He really works hard, tracking back and is not afraid to put in a tackle and his work when Los Culés attack is completely overlooked. Fans only see what the camera shows them and for that reason he has become the butt of jokes but at the Nou Camp, while they may be disappointed, they still appreciate his work.
‘There's a bit of gallows humour at play given how long he's been poor in front of goal, mocking and joking on Twitter is harmless. So long as the fans at the stadium get behind him and try to encourage him as they have so far what happens online is irrelevant’ says Adam Brown, vice president of Penya Union Blaugrana, and he is right. At the Nou Camp he is still applauded but the big question is for how long as most Barca fans feel the time has come to move him on.
‘If we can get £15m or so then he should be sold. His form's been poor for some time & with Neymar likely to arrive he looks superfluous’ continues Brown, and very few of his fellow Barca fans would disagree. Every day more rumours surface about the possible signing of Neymar. Should the Brazilian arrive this summer, Alexis will be shown the door. But where to?
Juventus are said to be interested, so too are Manchester City and then there is Liverpool. At Barca he tends to play out on the wing but he looks more comfortable playing just in front of the midfield or just behind the main striker. He is eager and keen to learn and his is a very confident player. With a little patience and an arm around his shoulder, he could become a major threat in front of goal again. If he can find his goal-scoring boots, he would be an asset to any Premier League club.
Interest from Arsenal is hardly surprising. Wenger seems, for now, to have found a way to win ugly away from home and will almost definitely sign a natural defensive midfielder in the summer to bolster this, but no matter what Walcott may think, Arsenal undoubtedly miss the X-Factor in attack, someone to change games at the very highest level. He might not be the striker Arsenal fans crave, but his copybook shows a player who will get fans on the edge of their seats and terrify opposing defenders.