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Julian De Martinis On June - 15 - 2011

Alexis Sanchez to Barcelona: A Questionable Potentiality

Alexis Sanchez has somehow become one of the hottest names in the transfer market this summer, with perhaps no club linked as strongly to the Udinese frontman than Barcelona. However, Sanchez’s transfer would be, at best, premature and at worse, a total disaster. Taking into account the player’s lack of Champions’ League experience, enormous price-tag unbefitting of a player who has done relatively little, and Barcelona’s recent transfer history, there’s little to suggest that Sanchez would be a smart move for the club.

It is important to note just how inexperienced Alexis Sanchez is. At only twenty-two years old he has much time to learn and grow- time which is probably necessary before making a jump to such a big club- but has had very little experience in major events. In ninety-four games at Udinese he has scored a paltry twenty goals, twelve of which came this year. Were he averaging a goal every other game or more, perhaps an approach from a big club would make sense, despite his young age and small tally thus far. However, a mere single season in double digits suggests that the player has much to do before he can be considered anything near world class.

He does have much to his game besides goals, however. His assists and pace have been crucial for pushing Udinese from the brink of relegation one season to the Champions’ League the next. However, on the basis of a single season, there’s little to suggest that Alex is anything more than a one-season wonder. Calcio fans know all too well how many such players exist on the peninsula; Mauro Zarate has looked a shadow of the phenomenal talent that he was for Lazio in his debut season, and even players such as and even players such as Marco Borriello and Wayne Rooney can follow up a brilliant year with a mediocre one. At Barcelona, such inconsistency would not be tolerated with so many world class players already in starting contention.

There is also, of course, the overwhelming question: where and how would he fit into the Barcelona line up? Lionel Messi is surely as untouchable as possible; Pedro has earned his spot on the flanks; and David Villa is necessary as a goalscorer up front- a quality which, as has been noted, Sanchez has yet to show that he has. He could of course ply his trade as a bit player and sit on the bench, but would Barcelona really shell out so much money for a chair cushion? Even at that rate, he would be competing with the improving Ibrahim Afellay as well as products from Barcelona’s youth academy such as Jeffren and Thiago- not to mention Bojan Kirkic as well, should all three stay at the club this summer.

He would be by far the least proven of any Barcelona transfers in recent times, and taking his enormous price tag into account, is nothing short of a massive gamble. Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Carlos Puyol, and Pedro all went through the club’s youth academy, learned the Barcelona way-to-play, and then broke into the first team. Transfers usually undergo a far more rigorous process at the club in current times, excluding cheap options such as Ibrahim Affelay or Gerard Pique. David Villa scored one hundred and eight goals in five years with Valencia, proving himself thoroughly in terms of both compatibility with La Liga and greatness on the international platform, where he has recently broken the Spanish record for goals scored. Dani Alves had been a superb rightback at Sevilla since 2002 and only made the move to Barca when he was twenty-five, which is an admittedly young age but with years of experience under his belt for both the Spanish league and the Brazilian National team. Even Javier Mascherano only made the move in his mid-twenties and after proving himself to be a fantastic defensive midfielder for Liverpool year after year.

Sanchez follows none of the above models. He doesn’t have years of experience in La Liga, is expensive, and is no guarantee to fit into Barcelona’s style of play. He would most certainly not be cheap, given the thirty million Euro price tag that Udinese have slapped on him. For comparison’s sake, that’s seven million more than Dani Alves cost Barcelona in 2008; seven million Euros more than the best right back in the world, one that has formed a near-legendary partnership with Lionel Messi. At Sanchez’s age, it could be argued that any club would be paying more for potential than final product, but why pay for potential that has only been there for one year yet?

Claiming that Alexis Sanchez is a great player would be as naive as stating that Diego Milito is a poor goalscorer on the basis of his paltry five goals this season. Of course, one poor season does not a career make- one only needs to open Wikipedia to see that Milito netted twenty-two goals last campaign as well as being an integral figure in Inter’s treble campaign, as well as winning Serie A the year prior. Sanchez? He once lead Udinese to fourth. Should Barcelona actually purchase the promising young Chilean, their acquisition will reflect far more on the insane “Must Buy” mentality of the current transfer market rather than the player himself.

Julian De Martinis

Calcio, Azzurri, and Roma tifosi. Blogger, correspondent, podcast host (@LaMagicast). Lover of books, movies, wordplay, family, and a good cappuccino.

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  • DavidYB

    Hope he goes to United!

  • Josep

    Like I told you on twitter, I have to disagree. Pep may seem like he has a bad transfer record, but his biggest transfer was somewhat of a hit. If it wasn’t for attitude problems, Zlatan would still be at Barca. Chygrynski was a ball playing defender he wanted but he was forced to lose because of Rosell and his “need for raising funds!” that we could still shell out on a Cesc chase. Ugh.

    Anyways I think at Barca Sanchez would offer more versatility than Pedro. He’s quick like him, a better dribbler, better one-on-one, and works just as hard. He’d probably start on the right, but he could also play left, or he could play the adopted false-9 role which could see Messi drop back to the right wing if they’re having trouble. Can you imagine lining up against a team and having Villa, Messi, Sanchez, all rotating positions and not knowing who to mark?

    His on the ball skills are fantastic and will help break down the buses Barca continuously face, and his work rate is tremendous. And as you say he hasn’t reached his potential. I feel like its a win for 30m.. but at more than that you have to kind of pull back.

  • catato

    Great write up! Good to see things from a different point of view. I personally think it would be better for him to saty at udinese at least for one more year to prove himself in CL.

  • Patrice

    If you look at it from this perspective it’s hard to argue against but at the same time ask yourself this; who do Barca have who can come off the bench and change a game? Surely you jest if your response lists any of Keita, Jeffren, or even Jonathan. Thiago is a good alternative to Iniesta/Xavi in midfield but sometimes I believe Barca fail to unlock teams who park the bus because noone is direct enough to run at defenders with pace, imagination and flair and cause panic. Sure Iniesta does it but his next instinct is to pass, even when in the 6 yard box. Pedro doesn’t possess the flair and dribbling ability of a Sanchez, Villa can do a job but still doesn’t offer the unpredictability of a Sanchez either. Villa’s lack of incisiveness in front of the bars this season was of worry as well. Messi is Messi, point blank period. But it doesn’t hurt to have another tricky attacker to serve as another worry for opposition defenses.

    Barca haven’t had a player who can truly unlock a defense like Ronaldinho did. Will Sanchez be that player? Who knows. 30M is steep, yes. He isn’t entirely without experience at the top level though as he had a strong World Cup and was one of the best attackers in the tournament. This season that Keita-Villa sub has been particularly painful, none moreso than in the game vs Arsenal which clearly changed the tide of the game. So I’m all for an injection of imagination into the team, but Barca are notoriously bad negotiators of deals so they may end up overpaying for this deal.

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