How brilliant is Alexis Sánchez?

"He's a bull – he goes again and again," said one of Alexis Sánchez's former captains; UEFA.com gets all excited about the splendour of the Chilean forward once nickamed 'Squirrel'.

©Getty Images

What they say

"His enthusiasm is contagious. He always gives you hope that he is going to do something and he always gets defenders on the back foot."
Arsène Wenger, Arsenal manager

"Even in recovery sessions he wants to go outside and train to keep improving. He's a bull – he goes again and again."
Mikel Arteta, former Arsenal captain

Alexis Sánchez – Five great goals
Alexis Sánchez – Five great goals

"He is a fighter, he is a character, he is a winner. He is a class, class player and now he is playing really well."
Josep Guardiola, former Barcelona coach

"I have played with several great players but Alexis Sánchez was the best of all. He is the best. Better than me? Obviously, yes!"
Antonio Di Natale, former Udinese team-mate

"The first time I saw him, I said there was no limit to his potential. Normally in young boys there is something missing – be it skill, vision or the ability to beat a man. Not in Alexis."
Nelson Acosta, former Cobreloa coach

Current tally

International: 119 appearances, 39 goals
UEFA club competition: 59 appearances, 14 goals
European domestic competition: 352 appearances, 134 goals

Claims to fame

Udinese
• Udinese spotted the 'Niño Maravilla' (Boy Wonder) at Cobreloa in his native Chile, signing him in April 2006 – when he was 17 – but allowing him to stay in South America, where he was loaned to Chilean side Colo Colo and then Argentina's River Plate.

Sánchez hitting his stride at Udinese
Sánchez hitting his stride at Udinese©Getty Images

• Finally arrived in Europe in summer 2008; showed promise in his first two seasons before striking up a superb partnership with Antonio Di Natale in 2010/11, the latter finishing as Serie A's 28-goal top scorer. Udinese came fourth to earn a UEFA Champions League qualifying place.

• Sánchez's 12 Serie A strikes that campaign included four in a February 2011 encounter with Palermo, making him the first player to score four in an away game in Italy's top flight.

Barcelona
• Acquired for €26m in July 2011, Sánchez won the Spanish Super Cup, Copa del Rey, UEFA Super Cup, FIFA Club World Cup and Liga in his first term. Coach Guardiola said: "Alexis has stolen my heart and made me so happy. He's a very humble person and Barça have made an extraordinary signing."

Sánchez hitting his peak with Barcelona
Sánchez hitting his peak with Barcelona©AFP/Getty Images

• Helped Barça pass the 100-point mark in the Liga for the first time as they claimed the 2012/13 crown, Guardiola's successor Tito Vilanova saying: "It's not easy to adapt to Barça but Alexis has done that. We were so excited when we signed him and he's one of our own."

• Hit his Camp Nou peak in his third season, scoring 19 in the Liga in 2013/14 (and 21 in all competitions) under Gerardo Martino.

• Trophies eluded him in that campaign, though. Real Madrid beat Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final; and while Sánchez's stunning volley in the last-day showdown with Atlético put his team in sight of another title, Diego Godín levelled to give it to the side led by Sánchez's one-time River Plate coach Diego Simeone.

• Blaugrana fans voted his classy lob against Madrid in 2013 as the best Clásico goal ever in a poll on the club's website, pipping efforts from Lionel Messi, Ronaldinho, Diego Maradona and Romário.

Arsenal
• Signed in summer 2014, and converted from winger to out-and-out striker, he netted 47 goals in his first 100 Gunners games (one fewer than Thierry Henry notched in his first 100 Arsenal matches). Henry rates him, saying: "He is brilliant ... you know that if he is on tune, Arsenal have a lot of chances to win."

• Became the first player to register hat-tricks in the Premier League, Serie A and the Liga when he bagged three at Leicester City in September 2015.

• Scored in both finals as Arsenal won the FA Cup in 2015 and 2017.

• Is now the Chilean with the most UEFA Champions League outings (48) and goals (13).

What you might not know

• Raised in an impoverished Chilean mining town, Tocopilla, from age six he earned money by washing cars, performing somersaults and boxing in the street. "His background is what makes him so hungry to succeed," said his brother Humberto. "He knows how lucky he is to be where he is and never forgets where he comes from."

• Tocopilla's mayor presented Sánchez, then 15, with his first pair of football boots. "As happy as a dog with two tails", he later paid to restore five junior football pitches close to where he grew up, and regularly returns with boots and balls for local children in the port town (dubbed 'Devil's Corner' by locals).

• Nicknamed 'Ardilla' (Squirrel) as a youngster for his willingness to climb trees and buildings to retrieve lost balls.

• Played alongside Chile team-mates Charles Aranguíz and Eduardo Vargas at Cobreloa then linked up with Radamel Falcao at River Plate. Of the forward's time in Buenos Aires, Simeone said: "I have the best memories of Alexis – he's extraordinary and you could see he was preparing himself to reach the very top."

Sánchez is regarded as tireless in training
Sánchez is regarded as tireless in training©AFP/Getty Images

• Performed a version of Richard Marx's Right Here Waiting at the Arsenal Christmas party in 2014. "I am not a piano expert at all but I can play it a bit," he said. "Sometimes you have to put football aside and focus on other things. Playing the keyboard helps me to de-stress."

• Slotted the clinching penalty against Argentina as Chile won the Copa América for the first time in 2015; struck three times and was named player of the tournament as La Roja retained the title in 2016. "I take no responsibility for his development because he did it himself," said Chile boss Marcelo Bielsa. "It's me who is grateful to him."

• Loves his golden retrievers Atom and Humber – named respectively after a fictional robot and his brother. "They are great friends," he said. "I actually have their names written on my football boots." The dogs are social media stars, their dedicated Instagram profile having amassed more than 150,000 followers.

What he says

"I always wanted to be one of the best players in the world – I've been saying that since I was a little boy. I will slow down after I retire, but for the time being I will carry on like this."

Sánchez after scoring another Arsenal goal
Sánchez after scoring another Arsenal goal©AFP/Getty Images

"It wasn't easy to get money [as a child]. I'd say to my mum: 'Don't worry, I'll be a footballer and everything will work out – we'll have money,' and she would laugh."

"Playing barefoot gave me my style – running with little jumps – because I was dodging rocks."

"People ask me if I analyse defenders or teams that I face. The answer is no, because good things are meant to come out in the spur of the moment. That's the way it is – things just happen."

"It would be a dream to appear in the movies, either as a detective – you know, smart, well-dressed, pistol, cool attitude – or as one of those lads who works at NASA and knows about everything."

What he might achieve yet

• Become Chile's most capped player; he and goalkeeper Claudio Bravo are tied on 119 appearances at the top of the leaderboard. He is already his nation's top marksman with 39 goals.

• Lift a major European trophy; he landed the 2011 UEFA Super Cup with Barcelona, but has yet to reach one of the two big finals.

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