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 Chilean.
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 then another temporary move to River Plate in Argentina. After winning league titles with both 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, enticing Alexis to become 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, helping the club to 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, when he provided 21 strikes and 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, including a screamer 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 during his final full term at the Emirates. He provided plenty of stand-out moments during a phenomenal campaign 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 2016/17 with 30 goals in a single season for the first time in his career, plus 17 assists. He further proved himself a man for the big occasion with 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 also on the international stage. 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 spot kick in the 2015 penalty shoot-out win against Argentina. He is the country’s most-capped player and their all-time leading scorer.
After picking up an injury in last summer’s Confederations Cup, Alexis started 2017/18 on the sidelines but worked his way back to full fitness and once again led by example, continuing his fine goalscoring form with eight goals before Christmas.
Following intense speculation about his future, United secured the forward’s services on 22 January 2019. His creativity and technical prowess, coupled with his ability to play anywhere across the front line, makes him a potent weapon and gives United another dimension to their impressive array of attacking options. In his first months at Old Trafford, the Chilean showed flashes of brilliance, most notably via two assists in the remarkable 3-2 win over Manchester City and a sublime header for the equaliser in our FA Cup semi-final win over Tottenham Hotspur.
In 2018/19, Alexis struggled with injuries but continued to provide when called upon, not least during a Premier League clash against Newcastle United, when he netted a late winner. He also got on the scoresheet in January's FA Cup meeting with his former side Arsenal, when he scored the opening goal in a comprehensive 3-1 win.
The forward then headed to the Copa America, where he rediscovered some of his best form. Goals against Japan and Ecuador helped La Roja to two consecutive wins at the start of the tournament, and Alexis then fired the decisive penalty in a nerve-wracking quarter-final shoot-out with Colombia, helping his nation into the semi-finals.