Arsenal Transfer News: Alexis Sanchez Barcelona Deal Slammed by Hristo Stoichkov

Nick Akerman@NakermanFeatured ColumnistJuly 11, 2014

FC Barcelona's Alexis Sanchez, from Chile, looks on during a training session at the Sports Center FC Barcelona Joan Gamper in San Joan Despi, Spain, Monday, March 31, 2014. FC Barcelona will face Atletico Madrid in a first leg quarter-final Champions League soccer match on April 1. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Former Barcelona striker Hristo Stoichkov has criticised the Barcelona board's decision to sell Alexis Sanchez to Arsenal, saying the Camp Nou hierarchy "do not understand football."

Stoichkov, who captured a quintet of La Liga titles and the 1992 Champions League as a Blaugrana player, believes the club has made a major error in letting Sanchez head to the Emirates, as reported by the DPA, via Spanish outlet AS (h/t Dermot Corrigan of ESPN FC):

Because of those who do not understand football we must sell the best player we have at Barca. The policy of Barca was always like this, they do not like great players. [Alexis] is the best player for his pace, his battling qualities. He fights for every ball, he plays for the team. I like his mentality. He is leaving with his head high. He is a decisive player.

These comments came a short while before Barcelona announced the signing of Luis Suarez from Liverpool, as confirmed by the club's Twitter account:

Although Suarez is a fantastic on-pitch signing, Barca have taken a risk on an individual whose behavioural problems continue to make headlines across the globe.

Currently banned from all footballing activity for four months and nine international matches after he bit Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup, Suarez's career is made up of three similar charges, plus a ban for racially abusing Patrice Evra.

Sanchez's departure was necessary to land the Uruguayan striker, as tweeted by Guillem Balague, Sky Sports' Spanish football expert and Bleacher Report UK guest columnist:

Stoichkov's comments, although strong, certainly make a valid point. Sanchez scored 19 goals and provided 10 assists in 34 La Liga appearances for Barcelona last season, but he often suffered limited game time under Gerardo Martino, as per

Despite showing great promise, he was obviously deemed unwanted by new boss Luis Enrique. Sanchez is a hard worker who needs freedom to express himself in a direct manner when on the ball, something he perhaps wasn't afforded in Catalonia, where short passes and the maintaining of possession rules above all.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MAY 14:  Luis Suarez of Liverpool faces the media during the presentation as new Ambassador for 888poker on May 14, 2014 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

Granted, his form was mixed during his three years, but his 2013-14 showing and World Cup form underlined a player who continues to improve. Sanchez's versatility ensures he can play on the wing or just behind the main striker, adding much-needed incision to the Gunners' attacking output.

Of course, Barca's decision to push the Chilean away is reminiscent to what happened during Stoichkov's career, as per Corrigan:

Although wrong to suggest Sanchez and Barca's split came after an argument—there's certainly been no indication of that—it is an example of the club spending lavishly in order to maintain pace with the star power of Real Madrid.

Suarez, Lionel Messi and Neymar now line up against Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema in next season's Clasico, easily the most star-studded clash across the globe.

Bulgarian striker Hristo Stoichkov playing for the Spanish club FC Barcelona, late 1990s. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Sanchez's exit provides Arsenal with a top-quality forward to enjoy next season. Former Barcelona midfielder Mikel Arteta, who now resides in the heart of the north London club's midfield, believes Sanchez can help the Gunners to the Premier League title, as per Rob Bartlett of

He's got experience and I think he's a very gifted player. He's very strong in a one-on-one situation and that's what we need up front - someone to make the difference. He's that kind of player. I want him to be ready because lots of other teams are fighting and bringing in good players, but if we can maintain our structure, we'll have a good chance [of winning the title].

Whether this comes to fruition remains to be seen, but there's no doubt Arsene Wenger will be extremely excited to have secured Sanchez's future. Stoichkov, along with many Barcelona supporters, will be anxious to see whether the sale turns out to be a smart piece of business.

ELCHE, SPAIN - MAY 11:  Alexis Sanchez of FC Barcelona competes for the ball Domingo Cisma of Elche FC during the La Liga match between Elche FC and FC Barcelona at Estadio Manuel Martinez Valero on May 11, 2014 in Elche, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Get
David Ramos/Getty Images

Liverpool legend Phil Thompson, who wrongly confirmed the Merseyside club had signed Sanchez live on Dublin's Newstalk, believes he is missing out by not choosing Anfield: "Sanchez doesn’t know what he’s missing by not joining Liverpool," Thompson said, as per Sky Sports News (via Jamie Sanderson of Metro). "The passion, power and worldwide recognition of Liverpool is strong."

Sanchez was mightily close to winning Barca the title with his goal against Atletico Madrid during the final game of last season. One has to consider whether he would still be at the club if Diego Godin hadn't managed to notch the equaliser, handing Atletico the plaudits.

As always, a world-class footballer's future is altered by the smallest of margins. Sanchez has all the attributes to be a complete success at Arsenal, an occurrence that will only strengthen the argument of Stoichkov and those who agree with his point.