Alexis Sanchez was the standout player from one of the most exciting teams at this World Cup in Chile. Manager Jorge Sampaoli incorporated an all-action, high-pressing play style that endeared the South American side to many of the neutrals. They played with a fearlessness and attacking intent that can only be praised, and it was often Sanchez who was the brightest spark.
The ex-Udinese man had enjoyed a very good season at Barcelona, with 19 league goals on top of 10 assists. Highlights from the league season include an exquisite chip in the first El Clasico of the season, and a ferocious strike on the final day that could have won Barcelona the league title.
Although he played to a high standard at Barcelona, Sanchez is a completely different animal when playing for his national side. Given the freedom to roam that he is not afforded at Barcelona, Sanchez was absolutely everywhere for Chile. He found himself on either wing routinely as well as playing playmaker in more central areas of the field. People who had not seen Sanchez play for Udinese or Chile may have been surprised by the completeness of his displays, although England fans should have been expecting it after Sanchez outplayed everyone on the pitch at the recent England v Chile friendly at Wembley.
He scored in his first game against Argentina with a powerful near-post finish, but more impressive than his goal was his assist in the same game. He received the ball with his back to goal, turned his man Mile Jedinak magnificently before running at the defence. He then had the thought of mind and calmness to play a simple ball to Jorge Valdivia, who finished well.
In the victory over Spain Sanchez was just as impressive. He was involved in the first goal, a flowing team attack, when he collected Arturo Vidal’s pass and, whilst surrounded and pressed by two men, played a perfect through ball to Valdivia who then squared it to Eduardo Vargas.
Though Sanchez did not register a goal or an assist in the final group game against Netherlands, he did a completely a frankly ridiculous 8 take-ons. When one-on-one with his man Sanchez is one of the most dangerous players in world football. He has the agility to go either way, and the strength and low centre of gravity to shrug off challenges from defenders. Chile went out when they played Brazil in the first knockout game, but Sanchez again gave a good performance and scored the goal that took it to penalties.
Now it gets interesting. It seems as though the Barcelona board are willing to part with Sanchez. Due to system Barcelona employ, centred around one Lionel Messi, they are unable to get the best out of their two wingers, normally Neymar and Sanchez. Both men have shown at this World Cup that they are more than capable of being involved in more areas of play, but at Barcelona are often isolated on the wing.
The spell of Luis Enrique will likely bring changes to try and revitalise the team, and one of these changes appears to be bringing Luis Suarez. Suarez had an unbelievable season at Liverpool, and Enrique’s wish for the team to have a genuine striker has led Barcelona to look at the Liverpool man. According to reports Liverpool are looking for a Sanchez + cash deal if they are to lose their star man, whilst Arsenal are also said to be interested and rumours suggest that Sanchez would prefer a move to the London club. Wherever he ends up, Sanchez would be a superb acquisition and fits the Premier League style perfectly with his energy and drive.