So the transfer deal that has gripped the world of football for the last few days has finally materialised.
Chilean talisman and Arsenal’s main attacking threat from their last three Premier League seasons Alexis Sanchez has swapped London for the red half of Manchester, with Armenian superstar Henrikh Mkhitaryan heading in the opposite direction.
The fortunes of the deal’s two protagonists couldn’t be more different.
Before this season’s lacklustre efforts, Sanchez was Arsenal’s main man. He did everything right on the field and could do no wrong in the eyes of the Gunners faithful. The last few months may have soured his relationship with the fans a little, but only the bitterest Arsenal fan would say that Sanchez won’t be missed.
For Mkhitaryan thing are slightly different. A hugely talented player, he has failed to shine in his 18 months at Old Trafford. Whether that was down to the injury-hit start to his career with the Red Devils or the complications of having to deal with a prickly manager like Jose Mourinho is unclear, only time will tell. But United fans won’t be crying at his departure.
In summary, the moves are a win-win situation for both players and both clubs.
United get an all-action, world-class attacker who is certain to inject some urgency and craft into their forward play. While Sanchez’s running and smart ball-play could see him prove the perfect foil for Romelu Lukaku. The fact that he is available for the Champions League is a bonus for United, and will raise the hopes of both fans and management that they can go deep in the knockout stage of this year’s tournament.
For Sanchez, the player gets a move to one of the biggest clubs in the world (no offence, Arsenal fans) and a place where he probably feels he will have a better chance to challenge for bigger trophies than the FA Cup.
Arsenal, meanwhile, get a hugely talented attacker in Mkhitaryan who is undoubtedly more suited to Arsenal’s attractive short-passing attacking style under Arsene Wenger than Mourinho’s fast-paced counter attacks. Let’s not forget that the 28-year old scored 23 goals and notched 32 assists in his final season with Borussia Dortmund. If he can reproduce that form at the Emirates, and Arsenal manage to bag his former teammate Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang then his signing could prove to be a transfer masterstroke from the Frenchman.
For Mkhitaryan, the chance to work under a coach that really appreciates a playmaker that can operate in tight spaces, should breed confidence in a player that appears to need the undivided attention of his manager to thrive.
While the chance to play for his childhood club should also inspire the Armenian to greater things than he achieved at United, while hopefully inspiring the Gunners to bigger and better things.
In short, there doesn’t appear to be any downside for either player or either club. But as football fans all know, things often don’t play out as predicted. It will certainly be interesting to see how they do.