He's been touted as the next Messi or Ronaldo so why are Manchester City leaving the door open for their city rivals and Barcelona?
Udinese’s Chilean striker Alexis Sanchez, along with his partner Antonio Di Natale are the odd couple of Serie A as no other side in the top flight play with a diminutive front-two who possess such exquisite technical qualities.
Sanchez stands around 1.68metres in his sock feet and naturally his strengths lie in an ability to turn on a sixpence before accelerating away with the ball to play quick one-twos in and around the area. He's small, fast, skilful, elusive: he's the little man of Italian football who's been tying the giants in knots.
The 22-year-old pocket-sized frontman is also deadly from long range when accelerating in from the left flank and has already hit a number of stunning goals this season, the pick of which came at Bari (see below), but he is really in his element when he takes the ball at lightning speed to run at defences either along the flank or through the middle.
The tactic of playing two smaller forwards would seem to have its limitations but the astute Udinese coach Francesco Guidolin changed his system - no more high balls forward but quick, decisive passing – knowing that his vertically-challenged strikers would thrive with the ball constantly on terra-firma.
It has been a non-stop intensity and fitness allied to skill that is almost like watching Barcelona at times – well the closest an Italian club can get to the Catalans. With his low-centre of gravity, compact build and blood-twisting array of stepovers it is no surprise Sanchez has been nicknamed El Nino Maravilla – The Wonder Kid – but more than that he has been a willing student, learning from the aging maestro Di Natale that he can be a much more effective performer if he remains on his feet and rides challenges.
Sanchez believes he is up to the task of showcasing his skills at a bigger club, be it in Italy or abroad, and has revealed that the Theatre of Dreams would be the perfect stage. “Manchester United has been my dream all my life and they would be my first choice”
That piece of sagely advice more than anything could be the making of Sanchez as a genuine world-class performer. Udinese president Giampaolo Pozzo had initially slapped a 30million Euro price-tag, from which Inter president Massimo Moratti shied away at the turn of the year but may well have to reconsider tabling a larger bid or miss out on what his aging side needs: youth and talent in one bundle. After witnessing his little trickster run amok with a four-goal salvo in the 7-0 thrashing of Palermo in late February, Pozzo immediately doubled the asking price launching his young protégé into the exalted company of megastars Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, a fee that Manchester City could afford, especially if they offload some of the dead wood.
“I don’t know how much Messi is worth but Sanchez has to be close to that figure,” claimed the Udinese chief who knows that only Manchester City can bring the sort of return he desires on a player he bought for just under 2m Euros from Chilean side Cobreloa in 2006 - and who has netted 12 goals this season.
Sanchez made his international debut at 17 and by the time he arrived in South Africa for last year’s World Cup finals he was already an experienced operator despite his youth, so it was no wonder that he received heightened exposure as Chile qualified for the last 16 where they lost to Brazil. Having taken time to recover from his exploits in the summer, extra stints in the gym hitting the weights added bulk to his upper body and with Di Natale’s advice ringing in his ears, even Serie A’s more robust defenders such as Giorgio Chiellini of Juventus and Inter’s Lucio have come off second best to make a mockery of the old saying that size matters.
Sanchez believes he is up to the task of showcasing his skills at a bigger club, be it in Italy or abroad, and has revealed that the Theatre of Dreams would be the perfect stage. “Manchester United has been my dream all my life and they would be my first choice,” the wide-eyed youngster was quoted as telling Chilean TV last summer. He may be short in stature but when it comes to skill, ambition and drive Sanchez has it in spades – and whichever part of Manchester he ends up in next season his arrival in the big time is assured.
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