A favorable outcome in the Alexis Sanchez saga has long since passed Arsenal by. It sped right past the head of Arsene Wenger and other club executives in late August, when they failed to recoup maximum value for a player they now could, realistically, lose for free.
But over the past several days, somehow, someway, a favorable outcome has come back into view. With Manchester City negotiations seemingly at an impasse, two other deep-pocketed rivals joined the fray. Manchester United burst through a side door offering to pay both Sanchez and Arsenal relatively exorbitant sums. Chelsea reportedly expressed its interest Monday evening. Together, the two forced City to withdraw from the race.
They also, however, serve another purpose here. They’re saving Arsenal from self-inflicted embarrassment. The Gunners had botched the entire situation. But the competition between City, United and Chelsea, which has arisen out of nowhere, appears as if it will cut them some slack.
The price has already been driven up by United. Arsenal’s reported valuation – $48.3 million – initially seemed laughably optimistic for a player that can leave for free in five months. But the Red Devils sound like they’re prepared to meet it. Or they might part with around $41.4 million and out-of-favor playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Either outcome would be a major win for Arsenal. And if Chelsea’s interest is genuine, perhaps the Gunners could yet come away with an even greater return. There has been occasional talk that Sanchez is keen on staying in London. Might Manchester United have to up its ante to seal the deal?
Some of this hinges on the legitimacy of Chelsea’s interest. News of it landed throughout the British media in a span of 30 or so minutes on Monday night. It also coincided with the news that City was out of the mix. There is, therefore, rational skepticism that Chelsea’s supposed entrance is merely a ploy to force United – whose manager has feuded with Chelsea’s, and whose fiercest rivals include Arsenal and City – to overpay.
Details washed up in the flood of reports fed that skepticism. The BBC’s David Ornstein reported, specifically, that City “believes” that Chelsea is interested. The Telegraph’s Matt Law tweeted that there had been “nothing from the Chelsea end yet.” ESPN’s Mark Ogden chimed in: “Lot of ground for Chelsea to make up ‘if’ they’re interested” – and the quotation marks around the “if” seemed telling.
Who, then, is doing the leaking? Ornstein, whose record is darn near impeccable, felt it important to specify where his information was coming from on the latest twist. Law said he hadn’t gotten anything from Chelsea. The Independent’s Miguel Delaney did tweet that he hadn’t gotten his info from City. But that doesn’t mean others haven’t.
It also doesn’t mean Sanchez’s camp isn’t behind the leaks. It doesn’t mean Arsenal isn’t. With City out, the Gunners – and Sanchez’s agent – were faced with a one-team race again. Suddenly, there was no competition, nobody to stop United from taking its lucrative offer off the table and submitting a lesser one.
As things stand, Arsenal is in position to, remarkably, emerge as the winners of this months-long saga. It won’t get the $82.8 million it could have had in the summer, of course. But it got plenty out of Sanchez over the past five months. It took its shot at the top four, and now looks set to bring in at least half the summer price anyway. It could get a pretty darn good player in return, too.
Competition is necessary to keep the Gunners in that position. Chelsea’s interest may be real; it may not be. Either way, it’ll serve that purpose, and ensure Arsenal comes out of this looking OK after all.
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Henry Bushnell covers global soccer, and occasionally other ball games, for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.
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