Alexis Sanchez – Should Barca stick or twist?

by Matias Grez

Alexis Sanchez Barcelona2012 was far from a successful year for Alexis Sanchez.

After a remarkable 2010/2011 season with Udinese for who he was named the player of the year, scored a personal record 12 league goals and assisted many more, Sanchez attracted the attention of Europe’s top clubs and eventually signed for Spanish giants Barcelona.

Immediately after his move in the summer of 2011, Sanchez made an instant impact and surpassed his own record again by scoring 15 goals in his first season. He quickly won over the fans, Pep Guardiola and teammates alike and helped them to win the Spanish Super Cup, European Super Cup and Club World Cup.

2012 started slowly for Sanchez but picked up in May when he and Barcelona were crowned Copa del Rey champions.

However, as last season came to an end, Sanchez’ performances started to wane and the goals dried up. He struggled to fit into a system that played without one focal striker and with the highly attack-minded Dani Alves, as opposed to Chilean compatriot Mauricio Isla at Udinese, playing behind him, Sanchez struggled to exert his full attacking potential.

Even so, Pep Guardiola continued to show immense faith in the Chilean forward, believing in his potential for which he paid in excess of €30million.

Then, with the 2012/2013 season approaching and David Villa returning to fitness, El Niño Maravilla had even more of a point to prove.

With Guardiola leaving and Tito Vilanova taking charge, it remained to be seen whether or not the new boss had as much faith in Sanchez as his predecessor did.

And faith he did have.

Sanchez’ performances deteriorated as 2012 wore on and he seemed half the player he was when he first joined Barcelona, lack of self-confidence a big factor in his diminishing effectiveness.

With these poor performances came increased speculation as to whether or not he was going to remain at Barcelona once the January transfer window had closed, with many sources linking him with a move to Juventus and the chance to link up with international teammates Arturo Vidal and Isla.

However, Vilanova has refuted these claims many times and insisted that he still has a lot to offer his team.

Since then, Sanchez’ performances have picked up gradually, getting more playing time and slowly but surely adding to his goals and assists tally.

His best moment of the season came in a La Liga game against Real Mallorca, in which he scored two and assisted Cesc Fabregas twice.

It was a performance reminiscent of his Udinese days and it was plain to see that he relished playing as the main creative force up front, and perhaps even felt like a valued member of the squad for 90 minutes.

In terms of performances and playing time, that was as good as it’s got for Sanchez. Since Messi’s gradual reintroduction to the side he has reclaimed the roll as the main attacking force in the side, obviously, and Sanchez’ performances have waned.

After being battered 7-0 on aggregate against Bayern Munich, the very patient Barcelona fans seem to have had enough and various reports are emerging from Spain and South America indicating that the Catalan club want him gone.

If this is to be his final season as a Barcelona player, Sanchez can look back with a certain amount of pride at his career in Spain. After an amazing first season, he never quite adapted to having to play second fiddle to another play in the squad – understandable considering he had been the main man at every club he had been at previously.

Come the summer, Sanchez will again have an endless list of suitors waiting for him, with reports in January already saying that he and Inter Milan had agreed terms over a summer move.

The international stage didn’t see Sanchez have much more luck in 2012. Since being the star man in the national side’s outstanding campaign to qualify for South Africa 2010, he has struggled to have any sort of impact on the team’s recent displays, which saw them slump to four World Cup qualifying defeats in a row.

New coach Jorge Sampaoli has since stemmed the flow of defeats with a comfortable 2-0 home victory against Uruguay and put Chile back in contention for a place in Brazil, with very winnable games against Paraguay and Bolivia up next.

However, Sanchez’ absence against Uruguay due to suspension saw the side play as well as they have done for a long time and looked a very balanced side.

He will be hoping that Sampaoli keeps faith in him as long as Guardiola did and that he can once again become the driving force he once was behind Chile’s success on the international stage.

Author Info

Matias Grez

Second year Sport Journalism student at the University of Brighton. Love South American football but with an extra knowledge and interest in Chilean football specifically. I write reviews on how Chilean players have performed in the Champions League and Europa League for magazine I Love Chile. Charlton fan and blogger for my local paper The News Shopper.

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