From the publishers of THE HINDU
VOL.34 :: NO.27 :: Jul. 07, 2011
It seems that any club that considers itself to be a major player in Europe has been linked with Alexis Sanchez in the last few months.
Barely a day has gone by when the 22-year-old Chilean hasn't appeared on the transfer gossip pages, with the likes of Barcelona, Manchester United, Manchester City and many more reportedly battling for his signature.
A quick, stocky wide player, with two good feet and an eye for goal, he has been compared to everyone from Cristiano Ronaldo to Lionel Messi. But who exactly is he?
Despite his age, and unlike many of Europe's top youngsters, it has hardly been a swift rise to fame for the diminutive winger. He debuted for local club Cobreloa in the Chilean top division at the age of just 16. In just his second first-team appearance, he became the youngest player ever to appear in the Copa Libatadores, turning out against Once Caldas of Colombia in 2006, and was soon earning selection for his national team too.
His tricky feet and goals from the right quickly won him admirers on the other side of the Atlantic, and after two seasons and nearly 50 appearances for Cobreloa, Udinese secured his signature for around GBP2million.
The Italian club promptly loaned him out almost immediately to Colo-Colo, the most successful club in Chile, where he won two major trophies in just one season. He then spent a second year on loan in South America, joining up with Argentina's River Plate, where he netted four times in 23 appearances for the Buenos Aires giants.
He finally joined up with the Udinese squad in July 2008, debuting against Juventus that September. In his first season in Italy, he turned out for the club 31 times, scoring three goals, despite a mid-season slump in form.
Nicknamed El Nino Maravilla (The Boy Wonder), Europe's elite first started keeping tabs on him after an impressive World Cup last summer, with Chile beating Honduras and Switzerland to reach the last 16. Despite losing in the first knockout round to Brazil, Sanchez impressed and, soon after, Udinese rejected a GBP20million bid from Galatasaray for the starlet.
In his time in Italy, he has enjoyed an impressive scoring record for a wide player, netting 20 times in less than 100 appearances. He has become the creative force in a team who last season beat off stiff competition from Lazio to finish fourth in Serie A and qualify for the UEFA Champions League for the first time in their history.
Now the race is on to sign him. Udinese owner Gianpaolo Pozzo had claimed last week that Manchester City were favourites to land him but a move to Barcelona now appears more likely.
Wherever his destination, a move to one of Europe's elite will be the culmination of a six-year journey that has taken him across the globe more than once. Sanchez is currently single and drives a Lamborghini Gallardo.
Chile caps: 36
Chile goals: 12
Chile debut: v New Zealand, 2006
Moment to remember: Scoring four goals in Udinese's 7-0 demolition of Palermo last season.
Moment to forget: Scuffling with Toronto's Police Corps after losing to Argentina in the 2007 FIFA under-20 World Cup in Canada.
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