So far this summer there are a handful of players whose names are linked to one club or another on a daily basis, none more so than Udinese winger Alexis Sanchez who has literally set Serie A on fire this last season – let’s face it someone had to. The diminutive winger has been linked to every top side in the world, Inter, Manchester United, Chelsea, Barcelona the list is endless. But who is this guy?
Alexis Sanchez is a Chilean international, the miners love him, West Ham thought they had signed him until Pablo Barrera turned up at Upton Park in the worst case of confusion since the Luther Blissett/John Barnes AC Milan saga. What a shame for West Ham as this boy can play!
Why does he play for Udinese then you may ask. Well Udinese are pioneers of modern day football. Their scouting network is one of the best in the world at identifying the best young talent and developing it and it was when Sanchez was only 17 they picked him up for a cool $3m. Their investment has more than paid off, they stand to make a 900% return on Sanchez. Not bad business if you can get it.
As soon as Udinese signed him, he was shipped out on loan to Chile’s most successful club side, Colo-Colo. He was part of their championship winning side, playing 32 games and scoring 5 goals, he became a key member of their side. Pity Colo-Colo only had him for a year - Udinese felt that it would be more beneficial for his development to send him out to Argentina and he joined River Plate on loan.
River Plate are one of the biggest clubs in South America, a daunting prospect for someone who was only 19 at the time. Sanchez didn’t have a problem with this though, moving out there during the 2008 January transfer window, he started going to town on the majority of defenders in the league, becoming one of the team’s top performers. The Los Millonarios faithful took to him instantly, comparing him to legend Marcelo Salas. Sanchez gave a return of 4 goals in 23 games as he helped River win the Torneo Apertura in Argentina.
After his success in South America, Udinese thought it was high time for him to play a starring role for them. He started with a bang being named man of the match in his first game, but had an up and down season in his first full year for the Bianconeri. The 2009-2010 season was a lot better and Udinese and Sanchez both started to look the part, and he was instrumental in taking them to the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia.
He was the subject of a €20m bid from Galatasaray last summer, only for it to be turned down by Udinese owner Giampaolo Pozzo who claimed he had not fulfilled his potential at Udinese. He was right, Sanchez’s profile rose by at least £10m in the 2010/11 season as he played 31 times, scoring 12 goals and chipping in with 6 assists.
Sanchez stands at just 5ft 6ins, but don’t let his petite frame fool you. The boy is strong and an absolute player. He prefers to operate on the right wing but can easily play on the left or through the middle. His versatility appeals to managers like coffee and doughnuts appeal to cops, he is both-footed and unpredictable.
He draws comparisons to Ronaldo, and I can see why; he wears number 7, plays on the wing and also has feet as quick as Michael Flatley on acid at a rave. Other than that the comparisons stop for me; he is not as powerful as Ronaldo but is a lot more agile. His low center of gravity means he twists and turns like no other, and he can be near enough on the floor whilst still moving past the opposition. He is full of flair with tricks and flicks and loves a step-over like Aaron Lennon loves a line in his eyebrow. He is quick, accelerates well out of tight situations with his bursts of pace and is a great decision-maker.
Barcelona are at the front of the queue for the Chilean international and it is no surprise he is already getting plaudits from all over the football world:
Gerard Piqué: “Alexis Sanchez would be an excellent reinforcement for Barcelona.”
Arrigo Sacchi: “Alexis Sanchez is a phenomenon. Not only could he play for Guardiola and Barcelona, but any team.”
His destination is unknown, but I am sure all will be revealed soon and whether he plays in the Premier League or La Liga, Sanchez is one to look out for next year. Full-backs beware you are about to get taken to the cleaners.