Why Alexis deserves his rest this summer
Jose Mourinho believes that Manchester United fans will see the best of Alexis Sanchez next season.
The South American was recruited from Arsenal in January, always traditionally a difficult time to bed in at new clubs, but he played his part in helping the team reach the Emirates FA Cup final by scoring in the win over Tottenham Hotspur at the last-four stage.
Chile have friendlies coming up against Romania, Serbia and Poland but Alexis was not in the initial 27-man squad named by coach Reinaldo Rueda. The feeling is that most of the stars who ply their trade in the major European leagues have been excused and given a breather.
Perhaps Alexis is in need of a rest more than most elite footballers. The 29-year-old has not had an extended break for some time and is famously always determined to play - a point proved by the record 121 caps he has earned for his country since debuting at the tender age of 17 years and four months, including 44 friendly appearances.
After a long season with the Gunners last year, he went all the way in the Confederations Cup with Chile, before losing to Germany in the final, playing five highly competitive matches in total. In 2016, he competed in six Copa America Centenario fixtures in the United States as his national team claimed the trophy for the second successive year by beating Argentina on penalties.
Twelve months earlier in 2015, La Roja had won the competition in their homeland with the same conclusion, defeating Argentina in a shoot-out. Alexis sealed the win with a Panenka-style spot-kick past Sergio Romero after running his socks off in six games. There was no rest in the close season of 2014 either as Chile reached the last 16 of the World Cup before going out to Brazil.
In 2012 and 2013, there were only World Cup qualifiers to contend with in June of those years and he played in those four matches but there was previously a run to the Copa America quarter-finals in 2011 and the last 16 of the World Cup in 2010.
So it is fair to say Alexis, who plays with such a high intensity in any case, is long overdue the chance to relax and recuperate, recharging his batteries to approach a new campaign fresh and firing on all cylinders.
Although he will understandably be devastated that Chile were unable to qualify for the World Cup in Russia, this is a rare opportunity for him to finally get a break and United should hopefully reap the benefits when competitive club football returns in August.