By Martin Wakaba – a football agent and the owner of Football Puzzles
In this era of football commercialization, anything is bound to happen. That is, if the gigantic figures (£m) are met and smashed. That was the case when Alexis Sanchez, former Arsenal’s prodigy, swapped the Emirates for Old Trafford, rekindling fond memories of the Robin van Persie transfer. In a flash, the move stunned and annoyed the fan-base at the Ashburton Grove, while it contrastingly led to a plethora of applauses and compliments for the Chilean forward by the Manchester United faithful. What even rubs salts to the wounds of Arsenal fans is that the Chilean gushed about his admiration of Manchester United. In words that would surely spark outrage from Arsenal fans, Alexis Sanchez avowed, “I am thrilled to be joining the biggest club in the world. I have spent three‑and‑a‑half wonderful years at Arsenal and I bring with me very positive memories of that great club and its fans. The chance to play in this historic stadium [Old Trafford] and to work with José 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.” Touché! In a sure heartbreaker for Arsenal fan’s, Sanchez as well revealed that he had talked with Sir Alex Ferguson about a move to Manchester United in 2011 before signing for Barcelona from Udinese. In a cunningly-crafted statement aimed at getting one over Arsene Wenger, Mourinho said: “Alexis is one of the best attacking players in the world and he will complete our very young and talented group of attacking players. He will bring his ambition, drive and personality, qualities that make a Manchester United player and a player that makes the team stronger and the supporters proud of their club dimension and prestige.”
Half-truths have been told about Alexis Sanchez’s deal. The Chilean’s four-and-a-half-year contract means that he is tied to Manchester United until the summer of 2022. It is in the wages/salaries issue that most of the misrepresentation and misquotation occurs. Most publications have affirmed that Sanchez would be paid a mega £500,000 a week. Certainly, such a claim falls perfectly in what President Donald Trump refers as “Fake news.” In truth, Alexis’ salary is within the region of £300,000 a week. That makes him one of the top earners at Manchester United, alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba, who happen to be Man United’s highest remunerated players. The hierarchy at Manchester United knows better that risking the surge and clash of egos between top players by seeming to overpay some while undervaluing others. With the famed but failed Galacticos project at Real Madrid that incorporated marketable and global superstars such as Ronaldo Luis Nazario, Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo and David Beckham, and under the tutelage of Florentino Perez, Man United would be wary of venturing the same route. In fact, Man United would be risking dressing room turmoil should Sanchez be paid the erroneously reported £500,000 a week. It simply means that other key players such as Paul Pogba and David de Gea would be relegated to the waters of non-appreciation despite their colossal input to the success of the club. Also, had Man United agreed to such an obscene fee per week for Sanchez, it would mean that other players would demand raises in their contractual terms. That would disrupt the wage structure at Old Trafford, curtailing the club’s way of contracting players.
Another misconception revolves around Sanchez’s transfer value. In reality, the transfer will shoot to around £60m after Manchester United’s £35m valuation of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, the Armenian sensation who moved to North London as part of the deal. It should be remembered that Jose Mourinho bought the Armenian from Borussia Dortmund for around £27m. Clearly, the transfer represents a sharp mind on the part of Mino Raiola and Ed Woodward, Mkhitaryan’s agent and Manchester United’s Executive Vice Chairman respectively. Also, the £60m value will have factored in the fee (believed to be in the region of £10m) received by Alexis Sanchez’s agent, Fernando Felicevich. However, when image rights and bonuses are factored in, the value will definitely go up. To Arsene Wenger, the deal makes more sense in that he would have lost Alexis Sanchez in a free transfer or rather as a Bosman Transfer in summer. In effect, that would have meant Arsenal receiving no fees for Sanchez. Who, in this era of football commercialization, would want to release a player at the end of his contract and get nothing for it?
In a move that is widely seen as a modern-day coup, Manchester United managed to outbid Manchester City, other wisely known as the Noisy Neighbors, to land the Chilean’s prized signature. Manchester City, and the likes of Chelsea and Bayern Munich, were even not willing to pay the agent’s fees as they opined it was a “dangerous move” in modern football. It is instructive to note that Manchester City’s £60m deal to take Sanchez to Etihad Stadium had collapsed on the transfer deadline day in last year after Arsenal were incapable of securing a replacement in time. Alexis was even chillingly blunt by insisting that, “I am joining the biggest club in the world.” Not yet done, Alexis continued, “I have realized a childhood dream after finally completing the move to Manchester United.” That, Mr. Pep Guardiola and Mr. Txiki Beguiristain, if you didn’t know, was ingeniously aimed at your overtures to lure Sanchez to Eastlands. Monsieur Wenger, the Arsenal manager, even added a tastier stunner and knock-back aimed at Manchester City, “I respect Manchester United because they generate the money they pay to their players with their own resources. You have to respect that.” Manchester United fans can only hope that Alexis Sanchez will re-introduce the swag, excitement and delight associated with the number 7 jersey. It is only fair to say that the last holder of the iconic jersey, Memphis Depay, never brought bliss and was subsequently sold to Lyon. Given that the iconic number 7 has been worn, immortalized and eternalized by the likes of Eric Cantona, Cristiano Ronaldo and George Best, Man United fans can now dream of football made in dreamland!