The deal which saw Alexis Sanchez join Manchester United from Arsenal in 2018 has been dubbed ‘the worst transfer of all time’.
Now it’s time for the club to actively address the situation and source an alternative way to offload the player.
Sanchez joined the Reds in a rare straight swap deal which would see Armenian Henrikh Mkhitaryan go the other way.
Due to the nature of the deal, no transfer fees were exchanged between clubs, however, United opted to make their new Chilean attacker the highest paid Premier League player by guaranteeing him a whopping £18.2mil over 5-years.
Prior to Sanchez joining United, it was widely reported that local rivals Manchester City were eyeing up a move for the then Arsenal wide man. It was believed that Pep Guardiola identified Sanchez as a key target and instructed his scouting team to follow the Chilean closely over a 12-month period. When it was confirmed that United had pipped City to Sanchez’s signature, City Chairman, Khaldoon Al Mubarak spoke out about the reasons behind Sanchez’s decision to choose red over blue.
As quoted by Manchester Evening News, Khaldoon said: “We identified him as a player that would have been a good fit for this club. Pep was very keen to have him join. But it didn’t happen. Not for the wrong reasons. There aren’t any regrets.
Khaldoon went onto confirm Sanchez’s wage demands were the ultimate stumbling block for City: “There are reasons why that deal ultimately did fall through and it was out of our hands. We did everything we could.
“We looked at it again in January, but the situation had changed for us compared to how we looked at it in the summer. The reality is that the economics simply didn’t work for us any more. If it makes sense for us, we’ll do it. If it doesn’t make sense, we are perfectly comfortable walking away.” he added.
By Khaldoon’s own admission, Sanchez is clearly a player who models his career path upon the foundations of money. Whilst there is no shame in joining world renown Manchester United, you’d be foolish to deny that, at the time of Sanchez’s transfer, Manchester City offered a greater threat to silverware than United did.
The transfer has been a disaster, for both parties. Sanchez has scored just one goal for United and has since found himself loaned out to Italian club, Inter Milan. His current spell in Italy has seemed equally underwhelming with reports suggesting that The Nerazzurri have no intentions of extending the forward’s time at the club.
With Sanchez’s return to United imminent, current manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, will undoubtedly be keen to ensure that the South American’s presence will not disrupt the great atmosphere amongst the current squad.
Given the COVID-19 pandemic induced uncertainty, it is becoming increasingly unlikely that United are going to be able to offload Sanchez in a permanent deal.
The 31-year old wide man still has 2-years to run on a block buster contract which sees him earn a heart stopping £350k every week.
Finding a willing and able buyer could almost be impossible. However, United may well be unaware that they could hold a significant key in the opening of the exit door for Sanchez in the form of cult hero, striker, Odion Ighalo.
Igahlo, 30, is currently on loan at United from Chinese side Shanghai Greenland Shenhua. The deal is set to expire at the beginning of June, 2020, however, multiple reports suggest United are keen to extend his stay beyond that date – a successful agreement would unquestionably go down well with United fans who have embraced Ighalo’s public eagerness to play for the club.
An alternative option for United in their pursuit to offload Sanchez would be to consider a swap deal involving Sanchez and Ighalo.
As ambitious as the prospect of trading the two players may seem, impossible it is not. Sanchez is clearly a player driven by money and stature. He gives very little consideration to the positive and negative impacts any given club can have on his career, whereas, Ighalo is a born United fan. The Nigerian has not been shy in his public declarations of love for United. Could United consider offering Sanchez in exchange for Ighalo? Absolutely.
One area of the deal which could prove difficult is the recent salary caps the Chinese Super League have introduced. Due to the impending financial collapse, Chinese authorities were forced to take action, subsequently, at the end of end of last year, the league announced a maximum salary of £49k per week for players.
United may be open to negotiating a term in Sanchez’s contract which would entitle him to a ‘sell on’ percentage, meaning the player is directly eligible to take a cut of the fee paid for him. In addition to a percentage of a transfer fee, it would not be unreasonable for the club to offer to continue to pay a proportion of the star’s wages. A small, in comparison, contribution to Sanchez’s sky-high wages would definitely be a financial improvement.
Should United welcome a transfer fee from Shanghai Shenhau and have all the other contractual stipulations in place, there is very little reason why we could not see Sanchez and Ighalo trade places. It is unlikely Sanchez is going to earn £350k a week anywhere else but for the sake of his own legacy, it may well be in his best interests to consider a last ditch attempt to get out of Manchester United; a club who have financially rewarded him for a very below par return on investment.
The deal for Sanchez will go down as one of the worst sporting decisions, possibly ever. From the ongoing cost to the length of the already ageing player’s contract all the way to the shambolic on-field displays, the entire trade has been disastrous. Often associated with titles, awards and trophies; holding the accolade for ‘worst ever transfer’ is not something United will want to be associated with for much longer. It is unlikely such a commercially detrimental piece of business will feature on Chief Executive, Ed Woodward’s CV, that is for sure.
It would not be unreasonable to suggest that during these unprecedented times, we could see some unusual pieces of business between clubs, especially United. The club could well opt to use the extension of the league as a way to take advantage of the possible transfer market’s extension and at least attempt to remedy the circus that is Alexis Sanchez.