Alexis Sanchez could have been Arsenal's for just £2 million if they had recognised his talent as a teenager nine years ago.
Udinese owner Giampaolo Pozzo, who has made millions from digging out the finest South American talent, went all out to make sure Sanchez joined the Serie A outfit ahead of other European heavyweights, including several Premier League clubs. They paid just £2 million, later selling him to Barcelona for £23 million.
It was the same year Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich spared no expense to bring Andriy Shevchenko from AC Milan for a massive £30 million. The Ukrainian would flop at Stamford Bridge but now Sanchez is being compared to Lionel Messi.
Pozzo told The Sun: “The big clubs, not just English, had sensed the deal but we were good at getting the player first when he was not yet known.
“He wanted to sign for us because, firstly, he wanted to come to Europe and then because we were the first to believe in him.
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"From when we started following him, he had a personality that was out of the ordinary for a boy of that age"
“Alexis was smart to understand that it was necessary to progress before arriving at a big club as it is natural for that to happen after. And it would be a better time to be at a club like ours that has space for young people.
“His choice was rewarded because he then went to Barcelona — which at that time was the strongest team in the world. And he is now at Arsenal which is another great club where he is doing very well.”
Udinese scouts have unearthed a number of talents in their scouring of the South American game, but after seeing Sanchez playing for Chile club Cobreloa, Pozzo sensed they had found someone extraordinary.
unquestionable technical qualities
Pozzo continued: “Our scouts in South America saw his unquestionable technical qualities. But, from when we started following him, he also had a personality that was out of the ordinary for a boy of that age.
“When we took him, we knew we had a talent on our hands and that’s why we decided to establish for him a program of gradual growth before taking him to Udinese. Alexis came to us as a serious guy with one goal in mind — to make it in football.
“For him the initial difficulties of settling in, that many South Americans have, they were resolved in a short time. He was always very focused on training, waiting for his chance.
“When it arrived he then did what he did, giving us three years of great football. His desire to succeed could be seen since a kid, so he was able to come through and then confirm his quality in European football.”
Sanchez is now arguably the best player in the Premier League and is expected to make the difference when his Gunners side travel to the Etihad Stadium to take on Manchester City.
The Chilean has been involved in more goals (scoring 12, assisting seven) than any other player in the top flight, including Manchester City's Sergio Aguero.