“I want to congratulate Alexis in particular, a 22-year-old kid from Chile who has courage and strength… he had a fantastic match,” said Guardiola, a man considered to be one of the top gurus of the game.
Chile’s number one football star, Alexis Sánchez, became the toast of the Spanish press this week, playing a decisive role for Barcelona in their must-win match against Real Betis on Sunday.
With two assists and a goal, Sánchez was the difference between the sides after Betis looked set to upset the Catalan giants and deny them the chance to make it four league titles in a row.
The Chilean striker’s performances led the football-crazy Spanish media to dub Sánchez as one of the most important signings of the decade – no small praise given that it is a period in which the club has dominated world football.
“Alexis was a ‘matador’. The Chilean honored his nickname of ‘boy wonder’ and demonstrated that his place in the side is becoming ever more important,” said the publication Sport.
El Mundo Deportivo described the crowd giving Sánchez deafening applause and chanting his name, and said that the loyal fans of “El Camp Nou” were “more and more convinced of his signing.”
Sánchez signed with Barcelona in July for a figure of US$54 million, setting a Chilean record and fulfilling his dream of playing alongside the best players in the world, like Lionel Messi and Xavi.
Leading into Wednesday evening’s clash with rivals Real Madrid in the quarter finals of the Spanish Copa del Rey, the kid from Tocopilla had scored seven goals in 15 games, making him the third most prolific forward to debut for Barcelona in the last 10 years. The strike rate outstripped some of the most illustrious names of the modern era of world football, including Sweden’s Zlatan Ibrahimović, Brazil’s Ronaldinho and Frenchman Thierry Henry.
El Mercurio calculated that at an average of one goal every 133 minutes, Sánchez’s strike rate was only topped by Cameroonian forward Samuel Eto’o, who had scored 16 goals by the same stage in his debut season in 2005, and by teammate Cesc Fábregas.
Fábregas signed with Barcelona at the same time as Sánchez and has scored 13 goals, but having enjoyed more game, the Spaniard had an almost identical strike rate of one goal every 132 minutes.
Sánchez’s goal scoring record is even more impressive given that he was side-lined for two months with a leg injury shortly after his arrival at the club.And though he didn’t score in his appearance against Real Madrid, in which the Catalans triumphed 2-1, he was the stand-out performer of the game and earned special praise from coach Pep Guardiola.