Alexis Sanchez’s decline – Arsenal success, Man Utd pain and rebuilding at Inter

The sun may be shining almost every day as Alexis Sanchez enjoys the comforts of juggling a football of the beach in his hometown of Tocapilla in Chile.

But back in Milan, there is a dark cloud hanging over his future at the club.

Reports in Italy suggest Inter Milan, who are currently in the midst of a financial crisis due to the impact on the coronavirus pandemic, are looking to offload the Chilean forward.

Sanchez is one of the top earners at the San Siro and the Nerazzurri are looking to cut their wage bill. At 32, the winger is no longer a starter and with Antonio Conte resigning from his position, he could be one of the players sacrificed as new boss Simone Inzaghi shakes up his squad.

Alexis Sanchez could be set to leave Inter Milan

The most surprising aspect is that this won’t come as a shock to Inter fans. Sanchez has been on the slide since leaving Arsenal and he looks powerless to reverse his fortunes.

His departure from the Gunners after three-and-a-half seasons at the club was a curious case but one that has been seen in football many times before.

At Arsenal, he held elite status along with Mesut Ozil. They were untouchable under Wenger due to their ability to carry the team, almost single-handedly sometimes, to victories with their creative talents.

Indeed, in his final full season at the Emirates Stadium, Sanchez scored 30 goals in all competitions, 24 with of those coming in the Premier League. What’s more, he didn’t miss a game in the 2016-17 campaign.

Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez enjoyed a fruitful partnership at Arsenal
Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez enjoyed a fruitful partnership at Arsenal

Sanchez always appeared to have a muscular frame and the physical attributes — pace, balance and agility — to back it up. So when Man United pounced to sign him from under the noses of Manchester City, it could only be viewed as a coup from Jose Mourinho.

The Red Devils fought off competition from City, PSG and Chelsea to land the attacker in an exchange deal that saw Henrikh Mkhitaryan head the other way to the Emirates Stadium.

When his signing was finally announced, Sanchez spoke with pride and ambition. No longer was he the man carrying a club in decline, but one capable of competing with the best for honours.

Part of his transfer announcement was that Sanchez was found playing United’s anthem ‘Glory, Glory Man United” on the piano. He appeared to be delighted with the move.

Alexis Sanchez signed a four-and-a-half year deal at Man Utd worth £400,000-per-week
Alexis Sanchez signed a four-and-a-half year deal at Man Utd worth £400,000-per-week

“I am thrilled to be joining the biggest club in the world,” said Sanchez.

“The chance to play in this historic stadium and to work with Jose Mourinho was something I could not turn down.

“I am very proud to be the first Chilean player ever to play for United’s first team, and I hope I can show our fans all around the world why the club wanted to bring me here.”

But very quickly, it became apparent that Sanchez and United simply were not a good fit.

The deal cost nothing on paper and that allowed United to hand Sanchez a mammoth salary package, reportedly worth £400,000-a-week. That made him their highest-paid player and no doubt generated some extra pressure to carry on his broad shoulders.

While he had been allowed a free role under Wenger, tracking back and working for the sake of the team were two mandatory requirements from Mourinho — and it just didn’t seem to sit well with Sanchez.

Alexis Sanchez endured a torrid time at Old Trafford
Alexis Sanchez endured a torrid time at Old Trafford

Mourinho, seemingly unimpressed with his attacking contributions after just two goals in 12 Premier League games, one of which was a rebound from a penalty he had missed against Huddersfield.

Aside from an assortment of pay slips and some heavy criticism from former United players, Sanchez has very little to show from his time at Old Trafford.

He fell out of favour and with it, slumped onto the bench at United. Mourinho even left him out of the matchday squad altogether for a fixture against West Ham in September 2018.

Hearing Sanchez’s name on the adjacent side used to send fans into a minor panic. Now, he was a player devoid of confidence and the defenders were no longer afraid to go near him.

He seemed to have lost that spark that made the crowd stand up from their seats whenever he got the ball. Some blamed it on his frequent trips to South America as he played in nearly every one of Chile’s international games, but there was more to it.

Sanchez's commitment to Chile may have hampered his club career
Sanchez’s commitment to Chile may have hampered his club career

Arsene Wenger shared his insight to why Sanchez was struggling and suggested his lack of confidence has had a knock-on effect in other areas of his game.

“The strength of Alexis Sanchez is to take initiative to dribble, to take people on,” he said.

“They as well these kinds of players who are most vulnerable when they have no confidence any more, because their game is based on confidence and feeling free to take initiative, he has lost that slowly, even with the interruption of the season.

“Since the start of the season he had a high level of physical energy, but he has lost [that] as well.”

Mourinho had his own theory about Sanchez’s struggles and suggested his unhappiness at the club, having failed to settle in the area, was behind his dip in form.

“Sanchez… I felt him [to be] not a happy man,” Mourinho told The Telegraph.

Jose Mourinho struggled to get the best out of Alexis Sanchez
Jose Mourinho struggled to get the best out of Alexis Sanchez

“And I think in every job you have when you are not happy it is not so easy to perform at every level. And maybe I am wrong.

“Maybe it was me who was not capable to get into him and to get the best out of him.”

His loan to Inter took him out of the firing line and helped Sanchez rediscover his passion for the game. Even if he was Chilean by birth, he had spent his formative years at Udinese and the familiar feeling of playing in the Serie A could have aided his revival.

His form is nothing like the Sanchez of old, but with a player in his early thirties, that is to be expected. Still, during those two years at Old Trafford, he looked lost and there may well be some regrets about his move to Manchester.

Alexis Sanchez left Manchester United to join Inter on a permanent basis in 2020
Alexis Sanchez left Manchester United to join Inter on a permanent basis in 2020

But now Sanchez has found his happy place in Milan. He has scored 11 goals during his time at the San Siro and won the Serie A with the Nerazzurri last season.

With the target off his back, he can be left alone by the press and relax at home with his two dogs, whom are the stars of his social media profiles.

The only question that remains now is if Inter will allow him to stay amid speculation regarding his contract. For his sake, Sanchez will be hoping not to suffer another dent to his happiness.

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