While rumors had been running rampant for weeks about FC Barcelona’s interest in Udinese winger Alexis Sanchez, a definitive deal for a transfer had not been completed. However, sources from Udinese have confirmed that Sanchez is bound for Barca for a fee of around £32 million. Sanchez had been linked to English clubs Manchester United and Manchester City before FC Barcelona was able to secure his services for the years to come.
Sanchez, who had been playing for his native Chile in the Copa America, is viewed by many to be one of the brightest young stars in the game. Last year, while playing for Udinese, Sanchez netted 12 goals in 27 appearances and helping Udinese reach the Champions League.
Now that Sanchez has essentially completed his move to Barcelona, questions will arise about his role on the team. According to coach Pep Guardiola, “Sanchez can play on all three positions up front.” In the pass-happy Barcelona system, which thrives on players being able to interchange with each other seamlessly, being a versatile player is one of the keys to having success with the club.
The importance of versatility was on display for the past few years at Barca, which saw more specialized players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic leave the club just one year after a big-money transfer. On the other hand, David Villa, who was acquired after the Ibrahimovic experiment failed, thrived at Barcelona because of his ability and willingness to interchange between a central striking role and a wing role.
If Sanchez has the same ability as Villa, Pedro Rodriguez and the recently acquired Ibrahim Afellay, the ability to interchange and play off of Lionel Messi—arguably the world’s best player—he will find instant success at Barca.
Sanchez’ arrival also means that Barca will boast one of the strongest set of forwards that I can remember. Along with Messi and Villa, Sanchez joins the aforementioned Pedro and Afellay, who are also quite capable in their own right. Perhaps most importantly, Sanchez, Messi, Pedro and Afellay are all 25 years old or younger, meaning that this deadly combination of strikers and wingers will be together for the foreseeable future.
Sanchez’ transfer also leaves FC Barcelona free to focus all of their attention on the acquisition of Arsenal starlet Cesc Fabregas. There are no secrets in Barcelona’s pursuit of Fabregas over the last year, including a transfer during the last window that fell through. Assuming that Barca does indeed complete a transfer for Fabregas, the club will boast perhaps one of the greatest lineups ever assembled.
The back four in Barcelona’s 4-3-3 system have been sturdy for the last few years, and they are all world-class talents. Although Carles Puyol and Eric Abidal are reaching the end of their careers, their form remains. Pique and Dani Alves are much younger, and like their aforementioned teammates, are of world class. The Barca midfield, with the acquisition of Fabregas, could boast the top player at each position.
Sergio Busquets, only 23, is already considered by some to be one of the top holding midfielders in the world. The greatness of Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta, 31 and 27 years old respectively, has been well documented over the years. With those three players, it is conceivable that Fabregas—considered one of the best young players in the world at only 24 years old—would be relegated to a bench role.
The forward three has already been well documented, but Fabregas’s possible arrival could give Iniesta the opportunity to play on a wing. There he could be more dangerous, leaving a front three of Villa, Messi, and Iniesta—with Sanchez and Pedro coming in as reserves.
Perhaps the scariest factor of this proposed lineup is that other than Puyol, Iniesta and Xavi, the entire starting eleven would be short of thirty years old, meaning that they could, in concept, start together for years to come.
Sanchez’ transfer has opened up a world of possibilities for the current lineup of FC Barcelona, including making the possibility of bringing in Fabregas more solid than ever before. The only definite aspect of this remarkable transfer is that Sanchez gives Barca the potential to top a season in which they captured the La Liga championship and the Champions League trophy.