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Alexis Sanchez is finally headed to Manchester – specifically, to Manchester United, roughly a week after a months-long transfer saga took a stunning, and ultimately telling, turn.
Manchester United and Arsenal have announced a deal that will send Sanchez to United in exchange for Henrikh Mkhitaryan. It is reportedly a straight swap, with no transfer fee going in either direction.
Sanchez thanked Arsenal in a statement, and also responded to critics of the way he handled himself during his final days at the club. “There are people (former players) who have spoken with no knowledge of what happens inside the club, and they cause damage,” he said. “I must say I always gave 100 percent, until the last day.
“I remember today, a conversation I had with [Thierry] Henry, a historic Arsenal figure, who changed clubs for the same reason … today is my turn.”
United broke the news with a dramatic video on Twitter:
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) January 22, 2018
Five months earlier, Sanchez had agreed to join Manchester City, and Arsenal had agreed to sell him for around $82.8 million, but the Gunners backed out of the deal because they were unable to sign a replacement. Sanchez had then reportedly agreed to join City next summer as a free agent. But with City and Arsenal haggling over a January price, United swooped in, and dangled Mkhitaryan to meet Arsenal’s asking price.
United won’t have to smash its club transfer record again, because Sanchez’s Arsenal contract was set to expire at the end of the current season. His impending free agency depressed his value. But that doesn’t mean United is getting Sanchez on the cheap. The money is simply going into different pockets.
Sanchez’s new United contract, based on reported figures, will make him the highest-paid player in Premier League history. It will, according to reports, pay Sanchez $19.3 million per year after tax, which equates to roughly $35 million before tax. And that doesn’t include Sanchez’s signing bonus, reportedly around $27.6 million. (Some reports, sourced from the United side, say the contract figures are significantly lower.)
Mkhitaryan’s agent, Mino Raiola, who claims to have helped engineer the deal, reportedly demanded a hefty fee for himself as well. The total cost of the deal to United, therefore, could be over $200 million.
Sanchez, at 29, is still in his prime, but will soon be past it. He represents a massive risk at that cost. United’s decision to comply with his and Arsenal’s demands isn’t exactly a fiscally responsible one.
But Jose Mourinho and the Red Devils needed a game-changing wide forward. They need a dynamic, multi-faceted, goalscoring attacker. They now have one.
And in return, Arsenal has a player who, just two seasons ago, was the best playmaker in the German Bundesliga. He showed flashes of that talent at United, but his style clashed with Mourinho’s. He is 29, so doesn’t solve Arsenal’s age problem, and will also be paid handsomely. But if he can re-find his Dortmund form, he could be a steal for Arsenal and Arsene Wenger.
There is no one clear “winner” of the deal. United got its bargain, but the contract might not look like a coup in two years. Arsenal might have gotten a decent return given the circumstances, but that will, of course, depend entirely on Mkhitaryan.
City, meanwhile, was probably right to pull out of the deal. But it won’t look back fondly if Sanchez proves a success at United.
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