Alexis Sanchez was all set to join Manchester City until Arsenal failed to sign a replacement.
The Alexis Sanchez saga twisted and turned until it ultimately lost itself in the mess that is Arsenal Football Club in the transfer market.
The Chilean was on the brink of making the switch to Manchester City, where he would reunite with Pep Guardiola, play wonderful football and compete for major honours. All that needed to happen was Arsenal signing a replacement and there’d be nothing in his way.
Whether it was a token effort or a genuine one, Arsenal tried to sign Monaco’s Thomas Lemar. A £92m offer was made. The bid was accepted. Then, when things seemed to be going along nicely, the deal came to an abrupt end. Arsenal didn’t have “enough time” to complete the deal. Other reports suggested Lemar didn’t want to join Arsenal. With just a couple of hours left in the window, Lemar wasn’t joining Arsenal and, as a result, Alexis wasn’t joining City.
The player will have been left understandably furious by the developments. Likewise, the fans of both clubs would be bemused and would like to know just who was responsible for the whole mess.
It’s tempting to say this is entirely down to Arsenal’s own incompetence. Arsenal made the late decision to sell Alexis and gave themselves little time to find a replacement. With such limited time, it ended up being a case of Lemar or nothing. This was made all the more risky by Arsenal not even knowing if Lemar wanted to join them or not.
Arsenal may have wanted Alexis to stay but they absolutely must have been aware of the player’s desire to leave. A sensible club would scout out possibly replacements just in case, and ensure some groundwork was laid to make a quick signing. Arsenal didn’t have to wait until the last minute to make that Lemar bid. Nor did they have to ignore the likes of Riyad Mahrez or Julian Draxler the whole time. Had the Lemar bid failed, say, three weeks ago, Arsenal would have had enough time to pursue other options.
On the other hand, Arsenal will rightfully point out that City’s plot to leave a bid right until the end of the window did them no favours. City would have known that Arsenal would want to sign a replacement – it’s a fairly common practice in the transfer window – yet gave Arsenal little time in which to do it. Had they made a serious offer last month, they would have gotten their man.
There’s another layer to all this: the year remaining on Alexis’ contract.
Alexis isn’t a priority signing for City, which might explain why they left it so late. They knew full well that if they couldn’t sign Alexis this summer, they could sign him for free next year. For them, this could have been a case of putting Arsenal in the most difficult position possible. Either they signed the player this window, leaving Arsenal little time to find a replacement, or they sign him for free next summer without giving Arsenal any money to buy a replacement with.
It’s all conjecture, of course, but Arsenal are undoubtedly in a more awkward place than City are. Arsenal cannot complain if Alexis turns out to be disruptive, because it was their reluctance to sell that dragged the saga out for so long. We had our chance to get rid of the guy and didn’t take it.
Ultimately, it may all work out for the best. Still, there’s no denying that this whole could have been resolved much sooner and much more efficiently than it has been.