FC Barcelona: Why Barca Overspent on Alexis Sanchez

Allan JiangTransfers CorrespondentJanuary 16, 2013

FC Barcelona: Why Barca Overspent on Alexis Sanchez

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    Barcelona’s wide forward Alexis Sánchez, the €26 million Chilean from Udinese, has underperformed for Barça this season.

    After scoring a brace against mid-table Segunda División opponents Córdoba, Alexis gave Ignasi Massafret at FCBarcelona.com a crisp response: “Goals give me confidence.”

    There hasn’t been much crispness to Sánchez’s game nor has he exuded confidence like the Udinese Sánchez.

    This article will tell you why the Blaugrana overspent on Alexis. 

Revisiting the Decision to Sign Alexis Sánchez from Udinese

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    Barcelona's decision to spend €26 million on Alexis Sánchez was illogical. 

    At the start of the 2010-11 season, Udinese manager Francesco Guidolin had dropped Alexis after he turned over the ball 44 percent of the time in a 4-0 loss to Juventus

    Sánchez would start on the bench in the next three games against Bologna, Sampdoria and Cesena

    The winger wasn't decisive, had negative body language and was on a six-game goalless drought.  

    He was afforded a lifeline, though, because Guidolin's Udinese side lacked incisiveness without El Niño Maravilla as a starter. 

    Tapping into decades of football experience, Francesco thought to himself: "What do I need to do in order to maximise Alexis' world-class talent?" 

    Rob Paton at Football Italia documented Guidolin's left-field tactical adjustment:

    The international break in early October saw numerous reports linking Sánchez with a switch abroad—fueled by the player refusing to rule them out.

    Guidolin declined comment on the speculation, instead telling the player to concentrate on footballing matters. 

    During the international break, the club played a behind-closed-doors friendly with Slovenian side FC Koper and Guidolin involved Sanchez in his experiments, ones that saw the evolution of the 3-4-1-2 as the side's first-choice formation.

    The decision to switch the team's focus from Di Natale to Sanchez drew criticism and surprise in equal measures.

    Whilst Sanchez' strengths may be best suited to a wide role where the space and one-on-one situations encourage his pace and dribbling, the central creative role has brought out his best performances in a Bianconero shirt in arguably a year.

    Francesco explained why he moved Alexis from the wings to the No. 10 position (from La Stampa via Paolo Bandini at The Score):

    We took a gamble on Sánchez. He had always played wide, but when I arrived I put forward the idea of playing him behind the striker.

    From a central position he can be even more decisive. Playing as a No. 10, he is more unpredictable, harder [for opponents] to keep tabs on.

    Sánchez led the league in completed dribbles per game and was the only Serie A player to win 100 or more free kicks (having a phD in diving comes in handy). 

    With goose eggs in goals and assists after two months, Alexis stormed back to score 12 goals and provide six assists. 

    A third of his goals came in that remarkable 7-0 thrashing of Palermo.

    His self-esteem levels that day were even higher than Nicklas Bendtner (if that's possible) as Salvatore Sirigu found out when Sánchez raced through on goal, did three step-overs and slotted the ball home

    With 53 minutes played, Alexis had netted four times and was withdrawn for Germán Denis. If the Chilean played the entire game, the deficit would have reached double-digits. 

    That game drew another classic quote from outspoken Palermo president Maurizio Zamparini (via Alan Gardner at The Guardian): "Delio Rossi has a one percent chance of staying. He has ruined my Palermo."

    Maurizio, it wasn't Delio's fault. Sánchez was too good. 

    The next week against Cagliari, Alexis scored and created two goals in the space of 10 minutes. 

    What started off as an experiment to reboot Alexis' confidence ended up winning critical acclaim from the very same football experts who had lamented the move as gimmicky. 

    Two muscle injuries slowed down Sánchez's meteoric rise and he ended the season like he started—in frustration. 

    It still didn't stop Barça from splashing out an absurd amount on a player whose best position was occupied by a certain Lionel Andrés Messi. 

Alexis Sánchez's Decline at Barcelona

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    When Martín Palermo missed his second penalty against Colombia, he pulled his shorts up in anger.

    The Argentine would later miss a third spot kick as Miguel Calero (RIP) pulled off a great save. 

    Pictured above, Alexis Sánchez is doing "a Palermo," and this moment of annoyance summarises the Chilean's experience with Barcelona. 

    A few months ago, a brutally honest Alexis didn't shy away from his struggles (via FCBarcelona):

    With every game, I'm improving a little bit more. I give myself a five (out of 10) at the moment because I can give a lot more. I know the quality I have as a player. I don't feel as though I deserve a place in the starting XI—you have to earn that. The best Alexis hasn't arrived yet.

    In the same press conference, when asked who deserved the FIFA Ballon d'Or, Sánchez said: "Leo."

    It's not just Lionel Messi playing in Alexis' position, it's the freedom which Leo is given that Sánchez craves.

    To dribble without inhibition. To be able to disregard positional discipline. The leeway to make mistakes, knowing you won't be dropped. 

    To Francesco Guidolin, Alexis was Messi. 

    To the Blaugrana, Sánchez is just a role player—€26 million for a dispensable part? Really? 

    League Only G SPG A SCPG CDPG
    09-10 [1] 5 11.2 3 2.2 2.2
    10-11 [2] 12 6 6 1.6 3.0
    11-12 [3] 12 3.8 5 1 0.9
    12-13 [4] - * 3 1.3 0.6

    G = goals; SPG = shots per goal; A = assist/s; SCPG = shots created per game; CDPG = completed dribbles per game

    [1] Udinese: Mainly used on the right wing. 

    [2] Udinese: Guidolin's experiment turned into a masterstroke because Sánchez had world-class moments as a deep-lying forward. Began the season disenfranchised out wide. 

    [3] Barcelona: Started 90 percent of league games on the flanks.

    [4] Barcelona: * taken eight shots in 13 La Liga games. 

Alexis Sánchez: A Misfit at Barcelona

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    Lionel Messi averages more shots per La Liga game (5.2) than Alexis Sánchez, Andrés Iniesta, Cesc Fábregas and David Villa combined (4.4). 

    Leo averages 3.6 dribbles per league game; no other starter averages 2.0 dribbles-plus.  

    This is Messi's team and rightly so. 

    Every single attacking move should go through Leo. If he had the selfishness of Cristiano Ronaldo, the Argentine would score 100 goals in a season. 

    Writing for Sports Illustrated, Spanish football correspondent Sid Lowe articulately described the principles of tiqui-taca football: 

    There is certain puritanism about Spain's approach, a kind of "talibanismo de tiki-taka"—as if scoring a goal from distance is a bit crass, as if bundling one in or scoring from a corner is rather grubby, as if hitting a team on the break or with a long ball is vulgar.

    As if a moment of individual brilliance, while a wonder to behold, is not quite right.

    Lowe also included an anecdote about José María Belauste's unsophisticated view of the game eons before the current Spanish side: "Sabio, give me the ball! I'll steamroller them!

    The one Barcelona player allowed to have this approach in their setup is the three-time FIFA Ballon d'Or recipient—LM10. 

    Spending €26 million on Sánchez, who is forced to adhere to the philosophy of tiqui-taca—even though he is one of Barça's most inaccurate passers—makes no sense. 

    The club have stripped him of his identity. Where is the showman? Where is El Niño Maravilla? 

    Alexis (€26 million), Geovanni (€21 million), Alexander Hleb (€17 million), Simão (€15 million), Ricardo Quaresma (€6 million), Ibrahim Afellay (€3 million)—that's €88 million reasons why the club should always look to La Masia as opposed to signing gifted technicians, who would be good transfers in Football Manager, but not in real life.  

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    Statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com