They may call him Niño Maravilla in his homeland, but Alexis Alejandro Sánchez Sánchez better be prepared to be the less marvelous of the villas on the squad. They’ll also have to fight it out for awesomest son of a miner at Barça.
Sánchez has been playing professionally since he was 17 when he joined his local team, Cobreloa. Udinese snatched him up just a season later and he spent a year on loan at both Colo-Colo and River Plate. At the former he won both the 2006 Apertura and the 2007 Clausura and came in runner-up in the 2006 Copa Sudamericana. At the latter he won what has turned out to be the most recent trophy for the now-relegated Argentine club: the 2008 Clausura. In the middle he also ended up 3rd at the 2007 U-20 World Cup. All of that combined to earn him a spot at Udinese.
Let’s get this out of the way first: he is not a goal scorer. He has, in his club career, scored fewer goals than Messi scored last season. In 3 seasons at Udinese he has scored 21 goals in 110 appearances, 12 of them last season in 32 appearances and all but 1 of them in Serie A despite 16 non league appearances. Granted, he has a stellar record on the international level (14 in 36), but he is not going to arrive and produce 30 in a season. Adjust your expectations accordingly, please.
Where he slots into the squad is as a winger in a center-dominated system. We need players capable of shifting deep into the middle as the opposite flank heads to the sideline or crosses up. Pedro and Villa may be good at that, but there are only 2 of them and there are enough matches in the year (60+ if last season repeats itself) that Sánchez will get proper playing time. His defensive tenacity should also mean that there is no letup from subbing. That will be a welcome addition to the squad, which has a paucity of first rate subs (though I would claim Jeffren is only “substandard” because of injuries and Bojan is played out of position).
What you’re all waiting for: the money. Yeah, we overpaid. Of course we overpaid, we’re Barça. We’re buying a nearly finished product in the middle of a crazy market and we’re one of the richest clubs in the world. Of course we overpaid. I dislike it as much as anyone, but then, I can either rail against the price or the lack of reinforcements. Feels a bit absurd to rail against both when Coentrao costs 30m, Ashley Young is worth 15m and the asking price for Samir Nasri is around 20m. And no, I don’t know if Niño is better than Nasri, but I do know that potential says he could be and that’s worth a premium when you show up to negotiations wearing FCB gear. It’s just how it is.
The cost is, according to the official site, €26m + 11.5m in variables. We can debate the merits of that, but if we win the league and one of the cups we’re in (CL or CdR), how many of you will really argue that for slightly more than what Ibrahimovic brought in from Milan this year (€24m) we got ourselves a handy dandy winger?
So, benvingut Alexis, you should do wonderfully here, though your speculative pricetag could be terribly inconvenient for you when you don’t score 12 goals in your first game. Yeah, we expect that out of you. So come on, have a great time, but be sure you listen to Xavi or you will end up under a bus named Carles Puyol. And you do not want that.