Saturday, 23 July 2011
Last season at Udinese he crucially added versatility to his list of attributes.
Although he is invariably described as a winger, a position he has performed in for both club and country in the last few years, in the second part of the Serie A campaign Sanchez performed as another striker, playing off Antonio Di Natale, that he excelled, eventually scoring 12 goals and picking up six assists as Udinese secured a place in the Champions League.
The standout performance was his four-goal haul in a 7-0 demolition of Palermo, at Palermo. Even Messi has only scored four goals once in a game - that famous night against Arsenal in the Champions League in 2010. Evidently the move to a central role brought the best out of the young Chilean star.
Coach Francesco Guidolin explained Sanchez's change in positon,"We took a gamble on Sanchez. He had always played wide, but I put forward the idea of playing him behind the striker. From a central position he can be even more decisive. Playing there he is more unpredictable, harder to keep tabs on."
It is surely his ability to play anywhere across the front three that has made his transfer to Barcelona so attractive to the Champions of Europe, particularly when you consider the scarcity of options available to them should the Messi suffer a serious injury.
Bojan, on the brink of signing for Roma, was never able to quite make the breakthrough, despite his remarkable record at La Masia and promise shown initially. Furthermore, with Ibrahim Afellay either used in midfield or out wide, Barcelona had no real alternative to Messi in his role.
Though Villa could move across from the left, even Spain's record goalscorer and one of Europe's most prolific strikers of the past decade is not suited to the role's specific demands.
However, with his adaptability and enthusiasm to drift into space wherever it can be found, not to mention his brilliant dribbling, close control and finishing, Sanchez clearly has many of the same qualities that have made Messi the ultimate interpretation of what has been called the ‘False Nine' role.
As the man who brought Sanchez into the first team at Cobreloa as a 16-year-old, said recently, "The first time I saw him I said he had no limits. He has everything. Normally in young boys there is something missing, be it skill, or vision, or the ability to beat a man. Not in Alexis. That is very rare."