Manchester City are refusing to be held to ransom in their pursuit of Alexis Sanchez, increasingly viewing him as a player they would like, but not one that they need at any price. That means City are prepared to walk away from negotiations, even if it allows Manchester United to sign Sanchez from under their noses this month.
City have resurrected their move to buy Sanchez, who they nearly signed for £55m at the end of the summer. But they view the total cost of the package – the contract, the agent’s fee and Arsenal’s £35m asking price – as too much for a player who will be a free agent in the summer. Unless there is flexibility in one of those areas, City will not do the deal. Their valuation for the transfer fee is closer to £20m.
This stance from City is in part because of the good news concerning Gabriel Jesus’s fitness. The Brazilian striker injured knee ligaments at Selhurst Park on 31 December but City now think he will be back within three weeks. This means signing another forward this month is less of a priority, and while they want Sanchez, they are not desperate for him.
The issue for City is that United are willing to pay the whole package for Sanchez. They have made it known they are willing to meet Arsenal’s price as well as pay Sanchez more and an agent fee. They would also be willing to offer Henrikh Mkhitaryan in exchange, knowing Arsene Wenger will not sell Sanchez without a replacement. That is something City were not prepared to do, and City accept their stance could lead to Sanchez ending up at Old Trafford.
Sanchez had previously turned down higher offers from Paris Saint-Germain due to his willingness to work with Pep Guardiola, and City are still confident that Guardiola is still the biggest factor in Sanchez’s thinking. But it is understood Sanchez has now got so impatient at Arsenal that he wants to leave as soon as possible and would consider United.
Sources close to Guardiola say he still wants the player, but would be put off it came down to an issue of money over football, so would walk away. For Sanchez’s part, sources close to him say he still wants to go to City but that he has been perturbed at how long it’s taking. United meanwhile have gradually grown in confidence over the last 24 hours that they can get Sanchez.
Manchester United could well start the 2018-19 season with Arsenal’s current strike force, as the club still plan to try and sign Mesut Ozil on a free in a summer, even if they get Alexis Sanchez in this window. Jose Mourinho could thereby be the biggest beneficiary of Arsene Wenger’s struggle to get a raft of players to sign new deals, as the Portuguese could well end up with the Emirates’ two biggest stars.
United’s initial plan had been to move for Ozil in the summer when his current deal expires, and there had been a widespread expectation that Sanchez would go to City. That changed in the last few days, when it became apparent that a punt by the club could lead to something more. While they were initially just testing the waters in letting it be known they would trump their neighbours for Sanchez, the Old Trafford hierarchy found it could be much more possible than they had anticipated, due to the Chilean’s impatience at getting out of Arsenal. They had felt his first choice was City and the chance to work with Pep Guardiola, but have now seen that stance is flexible. If they do pull off what would be a significant coup, United will still go for Ozil. Mourinho sees the German as a potentially key piece in his system.
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