Why Alexis Sanchez Has Been the Biggest Surprise for Barcelona This Season

Tre' AtkinsonFeatured ColumnistFebruary 10, 2014

FC Barcelona's Alexis Sanchez, from Chile, reacts after scoring against Valencia during a Spanish La Liga soccer match at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

At this time last season, Barcelona fans across the globe were ready to see Alexis Sanchez pack his bags. But the Chilean winger has become one of the most consistent and important players in the current squad.

Not only has Sanchez turned things around over the past year, but he has also silenced his critics and completely transformed as a player.

Without question, Sanchez has been the biggest surprise of the season for Barcelona. Even though many could have predicted that the 25-year-old would turn things around, nobody foresaw him performing quite this well.

By taking a quick look at his statistics this season, it is obvious that Sanchez has turned things around in a major way.

The Chilean finished last season having scored only eight goals in La Liga play, with most of those strikes coming at the end of the campaign. This season, he has already found the back of the net 14 times, and we are barely into the month of February.

Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Sanchez did manage to give nine assists last year, which was a rather impressive statistic. But in the current campaign, he is only four assists shy of that number with several months of action left.

Though statistics are a good judge of a player’s quality and change, they don’t tell the whole story for Alexis Sanchez. The biggest surprise for the Chilean this season cannot be measured in numbers and percentages.

The struggles of Sanchez last year were clearly visible. He lacked confidence and never seemed to be in control of himself. No matter how hard he played, the results just weren’t there, and it affected his mindset.

Fast-forward to today, and he looks like a completely different player.

The winger is playing with a ton of confidence and is not afraid to try something with the ball at his feet. The harder he works, the more he has to show for it, and Sanchez has become one of the most consistent players in the entire squad.

His smile is back, and so is his spark. Sanchez’s goal against Real Madrid in the latest El Clasico perfectly summed up the change between this season and last.

Several players have been big surprises this season. Victor Valdes is in the best form of his life, and Cesc Fabregas is finally looking like the player we all thought he would be when he returned to Barcelona. And let’s not fail to mention Marc Bartra, who has taken Spain by storm.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 01:  Alexis Sanchez of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Valencia CF at Camp Nou on February 1, 2014 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alon
Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

But Alexis Sanchez has to be the absolute biggest surprise for Barcelona this season purely because nearly everyone had given up on him.

This season, Sanchez was supposed to either fall apart completely and be sold or start performing a bit better. No one saw this coming.

In the season in which Neymar finally joined Barcelona, Sanchez wasn’t supposed to be the player everyone was talking about. Yet here we are in February, and the Chilean has stepped up in Messi’s absence and even overshadowed Neymar.

Alexis Sanchez has silenced the critics and won over the hearts of the Barcelona faithful. His tragedies of last season are fully behind him, and his joyful smile tells it all.


* All statistics are courtesy of ESPN.com


Has Alexis Sanchez been the biggest surprise of the season? Just how good can the Chilean be for Barcelona? Leave your thoughts and comments below!