FC Barcelona: Alexis Sanchez Report Card for 2011
Alexis Sanchez was Barcelona's first signing for the 2011 summer transfer window. On completing his transfer, Barcelona's manager Pep Guardiola remarked:
''He can play in all three attacking positions, he shows intense defensive skills, he's direct and from what I've been told, he's a very nice kid.''
These words sum up Sanchez's displays at Barcelona till date. He has shown an amazing versatility when thrust into either of the three attacking positions in the team. Despite being injured and missing two months at the start of the season, he has had a mostly impressive six months at the club.
As in the Cesc Fabregas report card, we will be grading Sanchez's adaptability, goals scored, assists made, overall team play and finally, his transfer cost.
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Transferring from any team to Barcelona, especially Pep Guardiola's Barcelona, is not an easy task because of the radical shift in playing style that any player has to adopt. This is one test which Alexis Sanchez has passed with flying colours.
He displayed his ability to play in different positions throughout the last six months. Against Villarreal in Barcelona's first league match of the season, he started as a wide player on the right and managed to score a goal and give a generally impressive performance.
He demonstrated a different role with the same ease against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu. Starting in a central role just ahead of Lionel Messi, he broke through the Real Madrid ranks to score Barcelona's first goal and displayed superb link-up play throughout the match.
It is rare that a new signing in Guardiola's tactical setup manages to fit in so well. Sanchez has proved that with his work rate and his versatility, he is the right fit for the club.
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As compared to Barcelona's other new signing Cesc Fabregas, Alexis Sanchez has not scored a lot of goals. He does, however, have a healthy return of five goals in his 13 appearances for the club so far.
What one needs to consider in Sanchez's case is that he had a long-term injury very early in his Barcelona career. Due to this, he was sidelined for two months. Even after his return to full form, he did not start many matches, often coming on as an impact substitute. He has cumulatively played only 523 minutes for FC Barcelona. Considering this, his goal-scoring is definitely up to the mark.
He is also the club's fifth highest goal scorer this season.
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If there is one area where Alexis Sanchez will have to show a lot of improvement over his current performances, it is in killer passes and assists. In his 13 appearances so far, Sanchez has only managed to assist one goal—against Real Sociedad.
His key passes statistic also does nothing to redeem Sanchez. He has only managed to make six key passes in his eight league appearances so far.
These are poor statistics by all benchmarks. Barcelona fans will hope to see this aspect of Sanchez's game improve a lot in the forthcoming six months.
Overall Team Play
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A major strength of Alexis Sanchez is his incredible physical strength and fighting instinct. This enables him to be a part of Barcelona's first line of defense—an attacker who presses from the front.
Sanchez's hard work and pressing of the opposition's defenders is a very valuable characteristic, and one which has almost certainly influenced Pep Guardiola's decision to sign him in the first place. He has displayed this hard work and pressing very effectively throughout the last six months.
Passing, however, is not Sanchez's strength. He has a comparatively poor pass completion rate of only 80 percent. It may not sound particularly low, but it has to be noted that Barcelona's other starters, barring David Villa, have pass completion rates of more than 90 percent. Alexis also attempts less passes per game, averaging around 28 as compared to Lionel Messi's average of 67 or Daniel Alves' average of 79.
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Considering Alexis Sanchez's age, his transfer fee of €26 million upfront is a really good deal for Barcelona. A world class 23-year-old winger for such an attractive price is rare to find in today's inflated football market. Indeed, players like Lille's Eden Hazard are being touted at prices close to €50 million.
A factor which sours the deal somewhat is the ridiculously high performance related bonuses of €11.5 million. If paid in full, the transfer could rise to €37.5 million, which is very high.
An interesting twist in Sanchez's transfer is this quote from Udinese's president Quique Pina that Barcelona actually paid €43 million to get their man. If this is true, then the deal is actually a very poor one for the club.
Grade: B+ (according to the €26 million upfront and a further €11.5 million fee as revealed on the Barcelona website)
Grade: C+ (according to the €43 million price as quoted by Quique Pina)