Barcelona's new sporting director Ariedo Braida has expressed his regret at the Catalan club's sale of Alexis Sanchez to Arsenal last summer, hinting that the Chilean winger would not have left Camp Nou if he was in office.
The 26-year-old has been a revelation during his debut season in the Premier League, chipping in with 12 goals and seven assists for Arsene Wenger's side so far.
Sanchez was ruled out of Saturday's 2-1 defeat against Tottenham Hotspur in the north London derby, but is expected to return to the starting line-up when the Gunners take on Leicester City at the Emirates Stadium this evening.
The former Barca star has played an integral part for Arsenal in 2014/15 and Wenger will need to keep him fit if the club are going to regain their place in the top four and qualify for the Champions League next term.
However, the £35 million deal that saw Sanchez move to England might never have happened had Braida been appointed in his executive role at Barcelona earlier.
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"I'd like Sanchez on at all my clubs, but sometimes can't," he explained in an interview with El Mercurio. "I was not at the club at that time and I can not put myself in that situation. I only started my position this month.
"I do not know what reasons the club had to let him go, but now Sanchez is one of the best in the Premier League and is at a top level in world football.
"Alexis Sanchez is a great player, one of the world's best in his position. I know him well, he has an exquisite technique. Alexis Sanchez could have been one of my players and who knows if in the future he will be, you never know."
"It was difficult for him not to play [against Spurs]," - Arsene Wenger
With 18 goals in all competitions Arsenal supporters will breathe a huge sigh of relief that Braida was unable to ruin their team's pre-season transfer plans, otherwise Wenger's side would've found the current campaign even more challenging than it is already.
Sanchez's absence over the past two games with a hamstring injury has been hard enough to take. His overall influence on the first-team has not been lost on the Gunners boss, who compared the South American to another former fans' favourite Ian Wright.
"He is a bit like Ian Wright," the French tactician was quoted saying by The Guardian. "His enthusiasm, the enthusiasm of Ian Wright. He has that. He is very friendly and bubbly every day. He is quieter than Ian Wright but that is not difficult and he doesn't get booked.
"He has had a bit of a winter break now, [one] that he didn't really want but he got one and I think he will now be recovered and fit until the end of the season. It was difficult for him not to play [against Spurs]. If it was the last game of the season he would have played.
Are Arsenal a one man team?
"For us it is important that he has no setback as once you go into February, if you have a muscular injury and a guy has a setback, you say bye, bye as the season is over as it is six weeks out. By the time you come back to your full level it is April and that is why we didn't take the gamble [of rushing him back]."
Having played such an instrumental part for Wenger's side so far this season, it's not exaggerating to say that Arsenal's prospects rest solely on the Chilean's shoulders. Keeping Sanchez fit gives the Gunners a much better chance of achieving their goals. Failure to do so could have seriously negative repercussions.
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