The Real Footie Analyst

Just who is Alexis Sanchez?

He is currently the most coveted player across Europe with the big clubs battling it out for his signature. Some compare him to Cristiano Ronaldo with his dribbling skills and attacking flair. It’s no wonder Manchester City are willing to cough up £30m for the star winger. Manchester United are also reportedly interested in signing the man from Italian club Udinese, but it’s rumoured he favours a switch to Spanish giants, Barcelona.

It’s also been reported that he refused to board a plane that would fly him in for talks with City after his club accepted a mega £30m offer from them. Here are some interesting facts about the player:

  • So good they named him twice (and named a Lady Gaga song after his middle name), the Chilean’s full name is Alexis Alejandro Sanchez Sanchez. Born on December 19 1988, he’s nicknamed El Nino Maravilla (The Wonder Boy) and has recently been described as “a real phenomenon” by no less a figure than former AC Milan and Italy coach Arrigo Sacchi.
  • Most often used as a right winger, Sanchez can also play through the middle or on the left. With blinding pace, excellent control and a decent finish, he’s often compared to Cristiano Ronaldo – who he described as “the best ever” – though he’s considerably smaller at 5-foot-6.

  • Sanchez comes from a very humble upbringing in the northern port city of Tocopila, also home to mad genius film director Alejandro Jodorowsky, whose baffling and savage 1970 Western El Topo was John Lennon’s favourite film. Alexis’ natural father walked out on mum Martina while the young Sanchez was still in nappies and she had to work two jobs – selling newspapers and seafood – to bring up her four children. Eventually Alexis was taken in by his uncle Joseph Delaigue, who died of cancer in May 2011.
  • Too poor to afford his own boots, Alexis had to borrow some for a local Under-14 tournament in Tocopila when he was just 12. He scored eight goals in a single game and later received a pair of new boots from the mayor of Tocopila. At 15 he joined the youth system of Chilean Primera Division side Cobreloa, although the local climate will hardly have prepared him for a possible move to Manchester – they’re based in Calama, one of the world’s driest cities, with an average of three inches rainfall a year.
  • Sanchez made his senior Cobreloa debut on February 12 2005 and 17 months later was snapped up by Udinese for £3million. But the Italian side let Sanchez go out on loan, first back to Chile with Colo Colo in 2006/07 and then to Argentina’s River Plate in 2007/08. He won three trophies with the former and another with the latter. He finally made his Udinese debut on September 14 2008, over two years after joining the club.
  • By that time, Sanchez had already become the youngest-ever full Chilean international, making his debut at only 17 years, four months and eight days.
  • The Chileans didn’t qualify for the 2006 World Cup, but the following summer, to gain tournament experience, Sanchez went to Canada for the Under-20 World Cup. Chile would be knocked out by Argentina in the semi-finals in a bizarre affair reffed by Wolfgang Stark, who caused controversy this season when he indulged Barcelona’s diving in their 2-0 Champions League semi-final win against Real Madrid. Stark gave 30 fouls against the Chileans, booking seven and sending off two. The Chileans complained that their rivals had been simulating and tried to complain to Stark at the final whistle, so vociferously that some had to be restrained by the Toronto Police. Later, players and police clashed outside the ground. Sanchez, who had been in a random doping test, missed most of the controversy but was still hit by a truncheon. Team-mate Isaias Peralta was tasered and a tear gas canister was thrown into the Chile players’ bus as fists flew. Sanchez and nine team-mates were detained but later released without charge.
  • Chile legend Ivan Zamorano says: “Alexis’ main weapon is his pace, but there’s so much more to his game. I’m convinced that he will be better than me and Marcelo Salas.” But current Chilean boss Claudio Borghi goes even further, rating Sanchez in the world’s current top 10 players and describing him as having the potential to become even greater than Lionel Messi.
  • Sanchez might be small but there’s no doubting his toughness. In the last two years he’s fought back from two bouts of ligament damage and a persistent ankle knock. Worse, a toe injury in March 2007 was said to have put Sanchez’s entire career in jeopardy – but he returned eight days later and scored a hat-trick against Caracas.
  • Football Manager lovers will be among the first people to recognise Sanchez’s name. He came to prominence on the 2008 version of the game, and proved to be a bargain buy for many, available at just £3.5 million, and went on to become one its stars, combining fleet-footed dribbling and flair with sometimes erratic finishing.

Here is a Best of Alexis Sanchez video

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