Alexis Sanchez opens up about Barcelona exit and Arsenal move, Mascherano praises forward
Ahead of the titanic Champions League Round of 16 clash between Arsenal and Barcelona at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday night, Alexis Sanchez has revealed that he made the right choice to leave the Liga club. The Chilean forward signed for the Gunners in a deal worth £35m in the summer of 2014 and scored 26 goals in all competitions in his first season, even helping the north London side defend their FA Cup title.
Speaking to the Sunday Mirror, he said it was a tough decision to leave Spain but that it was normal for players to switch clubs. Alexis had spent three seasons at the Camp Nou, winning the league title and the Copa del Rey once.
“It wasn’t easy to leave Barcelona,” Alexis said. “I fulfilled a dream when I moved there – to play in Spain and for the champions. But very few players stay in the same club all their life. To leave is normal.”
At the time, the Catalan club had signed Luis Suarez from Liverpool that summer and Alexis knew he would get limited playing time with so many attacking players in the squad. Arsene Wenger moved in swiftly and ensured he joined the Gunners when there was also interest from Liverpool.
“I wanted a new project, a new experience,” Alexis explained. “And with so many attacking players at Barca it was a good choice to go. It has been a positive move and I love it at Arsenal.”
Speaking about the game, the 27-year-old admitted that it would be tough for Arsenal to beat Barcelona in the Champions League. Luis Enrique’s side are on a 32-match unbeaten streak at the moment, their last loss coming against Sevilla in October last year.
Although Lionel Messi missed two months of the season due to a knee injury, he has scored 27 goals in all competitions this season.
“We know it won't be easy. [Messi] is the best footballer in the world, without a doubt,” Alexis said.
“It’s very difficult to stop him but we will work on it. And remember, Barcelona is not only Leo.”
Alexis is Arsenal’s version of Luis Suarez: Javier Mascherano
Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano also had praise for Alexis Sanchez and lauded his time with Barcelona. In an interview with The Guardian, the Argentina international felt he understood why the forward felt he had to leave and join the Gunners.
“He delivered in the time he was here,” Mascherano said of Alexis. “He was very involved. Maybe he just needed the challenge of having a greater part to play in another team.
“Now he has a huge role to play for Arsenal. He is crucial to what they do. His aggression and attitude is infectious.”
When he was asked if it reminded him of his own teammate Luis Suarez, Mascherano was in agreement.
“Yes, totally. There is a touch of Luis Suarez. He is a fighter. He never gives up a single ball for lost. He is always going to give everything. And that is fundamental for any team.”