Let’s bring the year 2009 into life- Ronaldo had just completed his world-record £80m move from Manchester United to Real Madrid. With his departure, Man Utd started the search for a ‘New Ronaldo’ and one person appeared on the north-eastern border of Italy, at Udinese. After two years of scouting then, the aforementioned ‘New Ronaldo’ or ‘NR7’ as we can call him, given he will assume the legendary No 7 shirt at Old Trafford, joined Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona. He is a physical, powerful and direct runner with a liking for cutting inside and shooting with power and always going at the speed of light.
All this happened seven years ago when ManU really tried to land a deal with him. Now, finally, the club will sign Alexis Sanchez, yes he is NR7, for a £30m fee and wages of more than £300,000-a-week – for the next four and a half years. Oh, but he is now 29 and at a very different stage of his career. Sanchez accepted the Premier League style quicker than most international imports when he arrived at Arsenal in 2014 after not fitting in at Guardiola’s all-conquering European kings.
2016-17 season, was Sanchez’s best yet, playing all 38 games and finding the net 24 times. This is more than his 13 goals the season before and 16 in his debut campaign. However, this season has not been quite the same, only seven goals so far, possibly because his attention was elsewhere which was a conundrum to his teammates and fans.
Playing at the speed of light, as Ronaldo will claim, takes a toll on the body and Sanchez if he is truly the ‘NR7’ the Red Devils have been looking for, has a thing or two to learn from the master of adaptation of the rigours of age. Remember, the Gunner has totalled 50 games a season for each of the last seven, and he has a four-and-a-half-year deal to fulfil after all. ManU would not like to repeat a Robin Van Persie and his deteriorating influence as he entered his 30s.
Ronaldo before reaching 30s had won two Ballon d’Ors (2008 and 2013) and finished runner-up in a third turning 30. He is a freak, a phenomenon, one that the Red Devils couldn’t even dream Sanchez of imitating, but they will hope he learns from.
In 2015, Ronaldo turned 30 and had realised the changes in his body and game. In order to extend his time on the field, he switched from a rather more physically demanding role as a winger to a complete striker.
”I’m different now, I’m more a penalty-box player, not so much on the wing,” he told Marca after winning yet another Golden Shoe. “Because you score more goals from there, so I changed my position slightly. It’s been a natural change and it’s certainly kept me happy.”
That is what Sanchez will eventually have to do under his new coach Jose Mourinho at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’, and it will a tough task at hand given the expectations with which he will be donning the red jersey. The Red Devils lovers will not like to see their new signing confined to the bench in order to preserve himself for bigger clashes. All of this is, of course, something that will happen in the future, Sanchez would not turn 30 until midway through next season and will still be playing with all the vigour, energy and enthusiasm of a 10-year-old on a school playground.