Even from a young age, Alexis Sanchez’s supreme natural talent and ability to become a global superstar was evident – and his arrival at Manchester United marked a "dream come true" for the club's first-ever Chilean footballer.
He was only 16 years old in February 2005 when he made his first-team debut for Cobreloa, a club based in the north of his native Chile, near to the biggest open copper mine in the world, Chuquicamata.
The manager who gave him that breakthrough, Nelson Acosta, recalled in an interview with The Telegraph in 2011: "Normally in young boys, there is something missing, be it skill, or vision, or the ability to beat a man. Not in Alexis. That is very rare."
Alexis inevitably caught the eye of European scouts and he was signed by Udinese in April 2006, although the Italian club immediately loaned him to another club in Chile, Colo Colo, and followed that with another temporary move to River Plate in Argentina. After winning league titles with both South American teams, he relocated to Italy and became an integral member of Udinese's squad for three seasons.
After netting 21 goals in 112 appearances and catching the eye with a series of dazzling displays for the Serie A side, Barcelona came calling in the summer of 2011 as Alexis became the first Chilean to play for the Catalan giants.
In his first season at the Nou Camp, Sanchez formed part of a devastating attacking trio with Lionel Messi and David Villa while helping the club win the Copa del Rey, Spanish Super Cup, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup under Pep Guardiola.
He also played a prominent part in their La Liga triumph in 2012/13, chipping in with 11 goals in all competitions, before contributing the highest tally during his stay in Spain the following season by notching 21 times and registering 14 assists.
After Brazilian forward Neymar established himself as a regular starter in 2013/14, Alexis accepted the challenge to test himself in the Premier League by joining Arsenal for a fee in the region of £30million.
It didn’t take the versatile forward long to find his feet in North London, claiming his first silverware in England on his competitive debut in the Gunners’ 3-0 win over Manchester City in the 2014 Community Shield at Wembley.
An impressive first season in the capital saw Alexis earn admirers far and wide, securing a place in the PFA Team of the Year, as well as Arsenal’s Player of the Year award. He also reached the outstanding tally of 25 goals in all competitions by scoring in the club’s 4-0 victory over Aston Villa in the FA Cup final.
Despite missing a period through injury, Alexis still managed to score 17 times in 2015/16 before enjoying his best season in an Arsenal shirt last term, which ultimately demonstrated why he is regarded as one of the world’s most exciting forwards.
He provided plenty of stand-out moments during a phenomenal season on a personal level, in which he was nominated for the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award and unsurprisingly took home Arsenal’s Player of the Season prize.
Often spearheading the attack, Alexis ended the campaign with his best-ever return of goals after hitting 30 in a single season for the first time in his career, as well as recording 17 assists, in all competitions.
He also once again proved he is a man for the big occasion after playing a starring role in another FA Cup triumph for the Gunners, scoring an extra-time winner against Manchester City in the semi-finals before netting Arsenal’s fastest FA Cup final goal when opening the scoring after just 229 seconds in their eventual 2-1 victory over Chelsea.
Alexis has not only shown his world-class ability in club football but on the international stage too. After earning his first cap in April 2006, aged just 17, he established himself as a key figure for Chile. Highlights include starring in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and winning the Copa America twice, scoring the decisive spotkick in the 2015 penalty shoot-out win against Argentina. He is his country’s joint most-capped player with 115 caps alongside Manchester City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo and their all-time leading scorer with an impressive 38 goals to his name, but it will be disappointing that his talents won’t be on show at this summer’s World Cup in Russia after Chile’s failure to qualify for the tournament.
After picking up an injury in last summer’s Confederations Cup, Alexis started the current 2017/18 campaign on the sidelines but worked his way back to full fitness and has once again led by example, continuing his fine goalscoring form with eight goals before Christmas.
Following intense speculation about his future, United beat off stiff competition to secure the forward’s services on 22 January. His creativity and technical prowess, coupled with his ability to play anywhere across the front line, makes him a potent weapon and gives Jose Mourinho another dimension to his impressive array of attacking options. In his first half a season at Old Trafford, the Chilean has shown flashes of brilliance and with a full pre-season under his belt, United fans will have a hot prospect on their hands when the 2018/19 season gets underway.