Wednesday 12 December 2018

Comment - Laughable theory that Man City hold the moral high ground in Alexis Sanchez scramble should be banished

Alexis Sanchez is being tipped to join Manchester United
Alexis Sanchez is being tipped to join Manchester United
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

As Alexis Sanchez prepares to make a final decision on the biggest move of his career, the notion that Manchester City are the guardians of financial decency in this high stakes poker game needs to be removed from the table.

Sanchez looked destined to seal a lucrative free transfer to City when his Arsenal contract expires next summer, with his desire to be reunited with his former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola seen as the driving force behind a move that so nearly took place on transfer deadline day last August.

Sanchez would have been a City player more than four months ago if Arsenal had succeeded in their last-gasp £90m effort to replace him with Monaco’s Thomas Lemar, but the France international made a wise move when he rejected an offer to sign for Arsene Wenger’s sinking ship and decided to bide his time and move to a club that is not permanently stuck in reverse.

Sanchez’s eagerness to leave Arsenal serves as a warning to Lemar and any other top player offered a chance to work under Wenger to reject the offer with haste, yet a curious narrative has sprung up around a transfer that could be resolved in the next couple of days.

City’s reported reluctance to match United’s offer of £35m and £400,000-a-week wages for Sanchez has seen the Premier League’s biggest spending side hailed as bastions of decency in this era of garish opulence in England’s top division.

Seriously? Manchester City are the guardians of the game’s moral standards when it comes to transfer fees and wages?

Let’s remind ourselves of some basic facts here:

* City have spent £500m on transfers in the last five years and around £386m since Pep Guardiola was appointed as their manager two summers ago.

* This is a club that tested the boundaries of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules when they were put in place and once the ill-conceived plan was scrapped, City's oil-rich owners moved into overdrive spending money that was only partly generated by football finances to build a dream team that has blown the rest of the Premier League away this season.

* City have blown most of their rivals away financially in the battle to sign the best young players in world football over recent years, ensuring their stranglehold over their rivals will be enduring.

While Manchester United’s wealth is generated by their huge global commercial revenues and the lavish media contracts that allow them to offer Sanchez such riches at the age of 29, City would be nowhere near the top of the Premier League were it not for their sugar-daddies from Abu Dhabi, who have helped to change the face of world football since they bought they club in 2008. They are the facts that appear to have been lost amid the coverage of the Sanchez story in recent days.

The idea that City - of all clubs - are taking a stance and refusing to pay over the odds for a player is laughable, with the final decision Sanchez makes on his future now clouded by United’s late big to scupper his move to the Etihad Stadium.

United manager Jose Mourinho (below) is clearly trying to disrupt City’s momentum by snatching one of their chief transfer targets and even if the deal makes little financial sense for a player who will have limited resale value, there is so much more to this transfer story than a battle for a world class forward.

Jose Mourinho could be prepared to bring forward Manchester United's transfer plans

This is Mourinho and United trying everything they can to shake-up a Premier League landscape that has been painted Sky Blue by Guardiola and his team this season and we should not neglect the reality that a move to might Manchester United is still a chance in a lifetime for any footballer.

Sanchez would be handed the United No.7 shirt worn by the likes of George Best, Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo, with the prestige of playing for one of the true giants of world football and becoming their highest paid player is not quite the second choice option many have argued it should be.

In addition, Sanchez would be a valuable marketing asset for United in the South American market, with his image rights set to soar if he was to sign for a club that has a vastly superior fan base compared to City around the globe.

Of course, City offer more than United on the field right now and if Sanchez was to pick between the two Manchester clubs on current form and future potential, there would be no decision to make.

“I am going to be honest, if he has got an option to go from Arsenal to go to Manchester City or Manchester United, as a footballer who wanted to win trophies and would judge myself based on trophies being won, at the moment Manchester City looks like the place to go for him in that respect,” stated former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand on BT Sport last Saturday.

“They are top of the league, they are going to win the league this season, they are in the Champions League, they are looking like they will be in the final for the League cup, the FA Cup as well potentially. So he has got more opportunities to win trophies there.”

Ferdinand’s views are valid, but if Sanchez moves to Old Trafford, it will offer hope to the rest of the Premier League that City will not have it all their own way in the next five years.

For that reason alone, Mourinho has to do all he can to ensure Sanchez is Manchester United player by the end of this transfer window.

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