Alexis Sánchez is one of the most sought-after players in football. It was a near-certainty that he was on his way to Barcelona, until his club Udinese revealed that the Champions League winners hadn't put in a high enough bid. That transfer saga is still ongoing, and Sanchez could still end up in a Blaugranas shirt. El Niño Maravilla is also wanted by the likes of Manchesters United and City, Chelsea, and Juventus. To be honest, he's likely wanted by any club smart enough to pay attention to the Chilean, even if most of them cannot afford the €50m fee that Udinese are now seeking.
So what is it about Sánchez that makes him so damn appealing? After all, he's only had one truly excellent season with the Fruilani, scoring twelve goals and notching six assists. Those numbers only tell part of the story, however. Sánchez was signed by Udinese back in 2006, but remained on loan in South America until 2008. He caught the eye of much of the world in the 2010 World Cup, where he was the shining star in Marcelo Bielsa's attack-oriented squad.
Fans of Sánchez may have been a bit disappointed, however, if they tuned in to watch the zebrette at the start of the 2010-2011 season. Despite their ultimate fourth place finish, Udinese lost their first four games, and Sánchez was benched for nearly a month. When he returned, Francesco Guidolin shifted him from his usual place on the wing into the role of second striker.
The shift away from his typical role as a wide attacking player is what made Sánchez into the hot commodity that he is today. Creating a trequartista out of the winger not only helped Udinese become the second-highest scoring team in Serie A, propelling them into the qualifying stages of the Champions League, but also helped his strike partner Antonio Di Natale reach 28 goals this season. It's the second straight year that Toto has tallied the most goals in the league, but this season, it was clear it was more about the work of Sánchez than of the Udinese captain.
Now it's time to see if Sánchez can inject the same sort of spark into the Chilean team. Bielsa may be gone, but Claudio Borghi will be playing El Niño in a role similar to the one he plays at Udinese, slotting him in as second striker, allowing him to slip inside and better elude the defense. Opposition teams should take care to not allow the play of Sánchez to frustrate, leading to them conceding fouls in what television announcers would call a "dangerous position." But as long as la roja keeps up the fast paced game we saw from them in the World Cup, Sánchez will flourish, creating space, tricking the defense, and generally making life a living hell for other teams.
Name: Alexis Sanchez
Club Team: Udinese (Italy, Serie A)
Chances Copa America increases transfer interest: None. He's already sought after by the biggest clubs in the world and is likely to be moving to FC Barcelona in the near future.
Role with team: Second striker in 3-4-1-2