For a footballer, the chance to play for the best team in the world at the moment, namely FC Barcelona is something that they would find hard to turn down. The prospect of playing alongside household names like Xavi, Andres Iniesta and the one of the best players on the planet Lionel Messi is the stuff of dreams. Alexis Sanchez of Chile was one such player who harboured such thoughts when he signed on the dotted line for €38 million to make the move from Udinese to Barcelona. 21 goals and 11 assists in 112 appearances for the Zebrette over a 6 year period isn't exactly the sort of numbers that would prompt a club to shell out such a huge amount. What should have been a promising career has so far turned into one of mediocrity for the young Chilean in his time in Spain.
"I want to learn from players like Lionel Messi and Xavi Hernández—and I want to help the club win more titles," said Sánchez when he first arrived at Catalunya. Then Barca manager Pep Guardiola expected big things from the Cobreloa forward who was well known for his fantastic dribbling skills, road-runner like runs, a powershot shot and a willingness to track back and defend to go with it.
But like many other players who have flopped at Barca after carrying big reputations at their previous clubs, Sanchez became another entity on that list. While at Udinese, who employed a more counter-attacking approach, Sanchez formed an explosive combination with club legend Antonio Di Natale scoring 39 goals between them in the 2010-11 season, just two short of Juventus’ Dynamic Duo of David Trezeguet and Alessandro Del Piero during the 2007-08 season. The Chilean was often found making runs down the wings or the centre taking on defenders and in the process open up space for Di Natale to work his magic.
|Sanchez was part of a talented roster at Udinese|
The cast that ran the Udinese show during the 2009-10 season consisted of players who now ply their trade in bigger clubs in Serie A. The team that had Cristian Zapata, Kwadwo Asamoah, Mauricio Isla, Gokhan Inler, Samir Handanovic was surplus in industry, pace and energy. With Sanchez and Di Natale leading the attack, they were a truly talented side which under-achieved on more than one occasion. These performances brought him the Serie A Player of the Month award in February 2011 where he scored four of Udinese's seven goals in a demolition of Palermo and also was voted by FIFA.com as the world's most promising youngster of the 2011 season ahead of Gareth Bale, Javier Pastore, Neymar and Ganso.
However at Barcelona where the tiki-taka system is embedded into the club’s philosophy, Sanchez was forced to sacrifice his dribbling desires and instead focus on releasing the ball a lot more early and allow the likes of Xavi and Iniesta to feed Messi. No longer was he cutting inside to find space and shoot like how he used to in Italy.
15 goals in 41 games during the 2011-12 season has been followed by 5 goals in 34 appearances this season. The reasons are a combination of profligacy and injuries taking their toll that had taken the world by storm in Serie A. His most memorable moment would have been the equalizer he scored against rivals Real Madrid in the first Clasico of the 2011-12 season where the Catalans ran out 1-3 winners.
Fatigue after travelling across the world to play international matches for Chile also played a part in Sanchez’s injury riddled time at Spain. Guardiola’s frustration over losing the striker before the Champions League game against Bayer Leverkusen was evident. Sanchez had been involved with Chile in a friendly against Ghana at Philadelphia after which he jetted back to Spain. The former Colo-Colo striker took part in one training session before a Spanish league game against Sporting Gijon before suffering a leg injury in the game.
Barcelona are going to lose Alexis for another 3 weeks. It pains me to lose him like this. We need him more than ever, we can't afford to lose him again." – Pep Guardiola in March 2012.
With clubs like Juventus, Manchester City, and Bayern Munich monitoring the striker’s uneasiness at Spain, Sanchez would no doubt be considering his options and would best realize his potential with a move away from Barcelona. With all of the above teams needing a player like Sanchez who would fit into their respective systems with ease, the Chilean can either choose to perform better at Barcelona or pack his bags and head out the exit door.
How do you stay up with football when on the move? With http://m.goal.com –your best source for mobile coverage of the beautiful game.