After the departure of the iconic Samuel Eto’o, the jersey number 9 hasn’t had a good influence on the player donning it. Call it superstition, but neither Zlatan nor Bojan performed to the standard set by Barcelona and had departed for greener pastures. Next in line to don the blighted number is the new signing Alexis Sanchez. Undoubtedly a player of phenomenal abilities, Sanchez has it in him to add to Barca’s repertoire and in the wake of compressed schedule with more matches and hell lot of travelling to be done, the Chilean will definitely give Guardiola the option to rotate his squad.
When the entire transfer market was abuzz with the Cesc Fabregas fiasco, the European Champions notched up an extra ordinary player from Udinese for 26 million Euros and another 11.5 million in potential variables, for the next five seasons. Given the fact that Sanchez is just 22 and one of the hottest prospects in Europe and World Football right now, Rosell has manifested his business acumen yet again. The Rosell regime has seen some bizarre and stern measures, which weren’t taken lightly by the fans world wide, but in the long run, it looks likely to aid the team financially.
Born into a underprivileged family in Chile, Sanchez had had a tough childhood and despite the financial constraints, Alexis clearly had the dream to make it big as a footballer. The mayor of Tocopilla, the place where he was born, gave him his first football shoes and since then, Alexis did not look back. In 2005, at the age of 16, the youngster joined local team – Club de Deportes Cobreloa. After a series of impressive outings, Italian club Udinese came knocking and the gateway to enter Europe was opened. In a record deal of $3 million, Udinese signed a player, who’d go down to make them a fortune in years to come.
Despite joining the Zebrette, Alexis was loaned out to Chilean outfit Colo-Colo in order to develop more so as to sustain the rigours of the European leagues. Colo Colo is the biggest club in Chile and has a fabulous youth academy and the loan move was just perfect for the mercurial youngster to hone his skills further. After a disastrous spell, Colo Colo appointed former Argentina midfielder, Claudio Borghi, who’d go on to resurrect the Chilean powerhouse’s stature with the likes of Sanchez, Vidal, Suazo and Valdivia under his tutelage. Alexis evidently had a great learning experience and was again loaned out next year to Argentine club River Plate.
Not many create an impression in their debut match. Fewer still win the man of the match award and even lesser of the blessed lot, continue to perform at that level, consistently. Sanchez belongs to the latter group of footballers. Not only did he win the coveted Man of the match award in his debut against Bassano but also continued to excel with expected lean patches in between. The 2010 FIFA World Cup gave the world a glimpse of an exceptionally talented winger. Under Marcelo Bielsa, Sanchez usually started as a forward, with Valdevia, Vidal, Beausejour and Suazo around him.
The 2010-11 season marked Alexis as the next big thing in European football and teams such as Manchester United, Zenit St. Petersburg, Inter Milan, Manchester City, Juventus, Real Madrid and Chelsea were reported to be interested in acquiring the Chilean. The race was, however, won by Barcelona as Alexis himself made it clear that it’d be a dream for him to play at Barca. One can attribute Udinese’s inclusion in the top bracket in Seria A, in 2010-11 season, to this man. Along with Antonio Di Natale, the Chilean has managed to rip open many defences and at just 22, he’s surely one of the superstars of tomorrow.
Sanchez’s raw pace, silken skills, creativity and of course his penchant for step-overs are reminiscent of Ronaldo. After being shifted towards the centre, Sanchez’s incisiveness has increased. As a matter of fact, as per statistics stated by OptaSports.com, Sanchez has been the most fouled player in Serie A last season, which bears testimony to the fact that the tricky winger is an absolute menace to defenders. It is for sure that the future is bright for this South American. Statistics, however, fail to do justice to the talent of this bright attacker. With 12 goals in 27 games, countless impactful performances and of course the award for the best youngster in world football in a survey, published on Fifa.com, the former Udinese forward finally came off age.
Alexis – Now A Barca Number 9
Guardiola’s team has no shortage of offensive arsenal and Alexis will definitely add to the quality. In the presence of Lionel Messi, Pedro, David Villa one might just be tempted to believe that Alexis will end up on the bench more often than not, but it mustn’t be forgotten that the Spanish and European Champions have one of the most gruelling schedules in recent years. Pedro, despite all his extraordinary achievements on the pitch, has been plagued with fitness issues of late and David Villa isn’t getting any younger and will be 30 in December. Addition of Sanchez will definitely give Guardiola more option to shuffle his front-3, but that might also mean reduced time for Pedro.
Sanchez’s skill on the ball is as good as it gets and his ability to deceive the opposition defenders with his footwork and speed will only add to the woes of all those who thought that dealing with Lionel Messi is the toughest job in world football. Moreover he’s quite stocky and would mean more than handful for the opposition. Barcelona lost a bit of their rhythm after the winter break. 51 of their 95 league goals came in 16 matches prior to the winter break at an average of 3.1875 goals per match. However, that number was far less flattering post the winter break. 44 goals in the rest of the 22 matches at an easily calculable rate of 2 goals per match, which eventually shows a 37.25% shortage. Alexis’ inclusion might just help the team to up the ante and improve the statistic from what it was last season.
Perhaps the best signing of the Rosell regime. Sanchez has the technical ability to go toe-to-toe with his more illustrious Barca teammates and at an age when unproven, a bit over-aged and relatively less talented players fetch around 20 million, Alexis with all his techicality, potential, built and definitely age is worth the money and in the long run might just prove to be an indispensible part of Guardiola’s dream team.