Alexis Sanchez appears destined to leave Arsenal this summer. He will be a hot property on the transfer market and should have his pick of clubs – depending on who can pay his wages and match his demands on the playing front.
The 28-year-old stated last week on international duty that he is settled in London and would like to stay put in one city for a long time, after hopping around from Italy to Spain to England in the last few years.
If he’s going to stay in the Premier League, then it’s likely Chelsea would be his next port of call, even though Arsenal are set against selling to a domestic rival. Therefore, it’s more likely that he will move return to Spain or Italy.
However, let's consider the possibilities if the Chilean champion does stay in England. If we rule out Alexis staying at Arsenal – and the latest indications are that he is refusing to sign a new deal – then his Premier League options are narrow, Arsenal’s intentions notwithstanding.
If he wants to remain in London for a long time that would eliminate Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City and Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United from the running, although both have been credited with interest.
It would naturally leave Chelsea as clear front-runners for his signature in a move that is expected to cost as much as £55 million - according to the latest reports – for a player whose contract expires in 2018.
But there is another, more intriguing option. It would be bold, it would be controversial – it might even be unthinkable - but Alexis Sanchez should ditch Arsenal for Tottenham.
While the attraction of Chelsea is obvious – joining the title-winners elect, working with Antonio Conte, having any wage demands satisfied at a stroke – a move across north London to Spurs could be equally fruitful.
In any reasonably foreseeable circumstance, Arsenal would rather Alexis rot than play for Spurs. But Arsene Wenger has sold players who have gone on to win titles at Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City instead of losing them for free at the end of their contracts. He is a businessman first.
Then there’s the wages. Alexis is looking for an upgrade on his salary one way or another but even his current £130,000 pay packet should put him out of reach of Spurs.
Daniel Levy – the man in charge of the purse strings – has only sanctioned contracts worth more than £100,000 a week very, very recently and those were contracts for his captain Hugo Lloris and prize asset Harry Kane. It is difficult to imagine another striker coming in and commanding at a stroke more money than Kane. It would not sit well in the dressing room.
However, Spurs are a growing force. They are currently playing big-boy football on what amounts to pocket money. Their wage bill is eclipsed by their top-six rivals in the Premier League and there is a feeling that in order to stay on top - at home and in the Champions League - they are going to have to loosen their pay restrictions.
Last summer proved that there is significant risk attached to buying players from the second tier – especially for a club of Spurs’s ambitions. Vincent Janssen, Georges-Kevin Nkoudou and Moussa Sissoko have hardly set the world alight and the step up in quality for those three in particular has proven too high.
With attackers like Kane, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen already on the books, Spurs are going to have to go shopping in the luxury aisles to improve what’s already there. At times this season, Spurs have looked light up front – even if they’ve managed to find a way to earn points on the occasions Kane has been absent.
Alexis could play all across the front three positions with ease or even in behind Kane as a secondary forward. He would give Mauricio Pochettino much greater options beyond what he currently has.
And the presence of Pochettino could also boost Sanchez’s game. As an avowed disciple of Marcelo Bielsa, Pochettino plays the kind of football that Alexis is accustomed to.
Having starred under another Bielsista in Jorge Sampaoli for the Chile national team and played for Pep Guardiola at Barcelona, Alexis knows all about the pulsating intensity that Pochettino would expect at White Hart Lane.
Pochettino has a lot more tactical nuance than his Arsenal counterpart Wenger these days, who seems to have played with a 4-2-3-1 every season for about the last 10 years. A link up with Pochettino would help Sanchez kick on.
Furthermore, as Spurs prepare first to Wembley and then into their new home, they need a statement signing. Too long Spurs have been about selling talent to top teams and not buying it themselves. They have watched the likes of Michael Carrick, Luka Modric and Gareth Bale disappear over the horizon for bright lights and big trophies. To truly plant a flag in the Premier League summit, it’s time they took something back.
Alexis would not only be glorious revenge for the loss of Sol Campbell but a statement that would leave Arsenal fans in no doubt over which club’s got the brighter future. No other outcome from the Alexis standoff could deliver more of a pointed message to Gunners that they’ve been overtaken. Only the most-blinkered of Arsenal fans would fail to recognise that Spurs's team is better.
Arsenal are going stale. They have a manager who literally doesn’t know if he’s coming or going. There is an uneven character all throughout the squad and any upwardly mobile player would take one last look around and bail out.
Arsenal had their chance with Alexis and blew it. A solitary FA Cup is a disaster of a return for a player of his ability at this stage of his career. Moving to Spurs would shock Arsenal into the realisation that they are being left behind by a team of much better prospects.