Alexis Sanchez’s three-year spell at Barça came to an end yesterday when it was confirmed that he will move to England to join Arsenal. The transfer fee has not been officially announced but it is believed to be in the region of €38 million with another €4-5 million in variables. Barça will use the money towards the purchase of Luis Suarez whose signing has just been confirmed (more news to follow).
The Chilean scored 47 goals in 141 games in his three seasons at the club which may not be a great return but we began to see the best of him in his final year when he netted 21 of which 19 came in La Liga making him the league’s fourth top scorer behind Ronaldo, Messi and Diego Costa. Luis Suarez may score more goals for us but it is no guarantee and it seems strange to sell a 25-year-old to buy a player two years older. Our problems last season were in other areas of the pitch, we might even have clinched the league thanks to Alexis’s magnificent strike against Atlético on the last day of the season only to throw it away again due to our defensive weakness at corners.
I’d like to believe that the decision has something to do with creating opportunities for youngsters. With Neymar likely to miss the start of the season after fracturing a vertebra in the World Cup and Suarez suspended until the end of October, Luis Enrique may start the season with only Messi, Pedro and Gerard Deulofeu as recognised forwards. Deulofeu is waiting to explode but he is going to need opportunities to sharpen up his game, it will be a big boost for him if he can start the season in the team. Lucho may also be thinking to give some minutes to the extremely promising B-team players Adama Traore, Munir El-Haddadi and Jean-Marie Dongou.
However, I find myself feeling suspicious about the whole Suarez deal. Following the fiasco surrounding Neymar’s transfer last summer I can’t help wondering about who will be making money from commissions. There seemed too much eagerness on Barça’s part to defend the Uruguayan after he bit into Chiellini’s shoulder and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Barça were behind Suarez’s belated ‘honorable’ apology. Whatever the motives behind the dealings Alexis has been sacrificed, according to some sources because there were no decent offers for Pedro whereas there was a solid offer for the Chilean. After Luis F*go it is the second highest fee we have ever received for selling a player, and some board members might defend the decision by saying the previous board sold players of the quality of Samuel Eto’o and Zlatan Ibrahimovic for less.
For me, we have once again sold too cheaply. I always liked Alexis, even when he went through that dreadful period in front of goal. The pressure of playing at Camp Nou is enormous and fans should be more understanding when players suffer a loss of form. Alexis showed the strength of character to overcome his bad run, and his undoubted class has been shining through ever since. Over the years players come and go but nearly always when a player finishes his time at Barça I can see something resembling a decent reason (usually they are past their best or occasionally, like Eto’o and Ibra, they leave due to falling out with the coach). This time the only thing I see is us selling an extremely talented player in his prime. It’s strange but with Fabregas I don’t feel any great sense of loss (I’m pretty neutral about his move to Chelsea) but I’ll definitely miss Alexis, even his silly habit of pulling up one leg of his shorts. It only remains to say: Farewell Alexis and thanks for the memories.