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Why Alexis Sanchez would do well to follow Cristiano Ronaldo’s example when he moves to Manchester United

Ronaldo is a phenomenon who successfully remodelled himself at the final stage of his career. United will hope Sanchez can achieve something similar at Old Trafford

  • Jack Austin
  • @jackaustin_1

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The Independent Sport


Alexis Sanchez surely has to change his game to succeed at Old Trafford Getty

It’s 2009. Cristiano Ronaldo has just completed his world-record £80m move from Manchester United to Real Madrid. Manchester United are looking for a ‘New Ronaldo’, and one has appeared on the north-eastern boarder of Italy, at Udinese.

After two years of scouting and interest, the aforementioned ‘New Ronaldo’ – or shall we call him ‘NR7’, given he will assume the No 7 shirt at Old Trafford – joined Pep Guardiola and Barcelona, a physical, powerful and direct runner with a penchant for cutting inside and shooting with power and always going at 100mph.

It may be nearly seven years after when they originally tried to get him but Manchester United have finally signed Alexis Sanchez, for a £30m fee and on wages of more than £300,000-a-week – for the next four and a half years. Oh, but he’s now 29 and at a very different stage of his career.

Transfers: Players that are out of contract in 2018

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Transfers: Players that are out of contract in 2018

    • 1/49 Alexis Sanchez

      After a failed deadline day move to Manchester City in the summer, the Chilean forward has refused to sign a contract with the London-based club, and will have a host of top European sides after him in January or the summer.

      Getty Images

    • 2/49 Mesut Ozil

      The German playmaker’s protracted contract negotiations are well documented, and he will have a host of suitors should he fail to resign for the Gunners before the summer.

      Arsenal FC via Getty Images

    • 3/49 Juan Mata

      The United playmaker is yet to renew his contract with the club, however having started 13 games this season, it seems unlikely the Spaniard will be shown the door by Mourinho.

      AFP/Getty Images

    • 4/49 Luke Shaw

      Following strong criticism from his own manager and pundits, after a series of long-term injuries, the former-Saint looks set to leave Old Trafford after four seasons that has seen him make only 53 appearances for United.

      Man Utd via Getty Images

    • 5/49 Ander Herrera

      Manchester United have a one-year option they can invoke in the Spaniard’s contract should they wish to extend his stay at Old Trafford. Nemanja Matic’s arrival has limited the midfielder’s opportunities with the majority of his appearances this season coming from the bench.

      Man Utd via Getty Images

    • 6/49 Jack Wilshere

      Having struggled with injuries for years the Arsenal academy graduate has played in Arsenal’s previous four games. Undoubtedly talented, should the midfielder reject a proposed contract extension from the London club he will have plenty of Premier League sides eager to sign him at the end of the season.

      Arsenal FC via Getty Images

    • 7/49 Emre Can

      Heavily linked with a move to Juventus, the former-Bayern Munich midfielder has been frustrated by Jurgen Klopp’s rotation policy in a congested Liverpool midfield, and with the impending arrival of Naby Keita from Leipzig in the summer, sees his opportunities further diminishing.

      Liverpool FC via Getty Images

    • 8/49 Marouane Fellaini

      Struggling for game time in a United midfield consisting of Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera, and Nemanja Matic, the Belgian may be tempted to move in search of first team opportunities.

      AFP/Getty Images

    • 9/49 Franck Ribery

      The Champions League winner, now 34, has struggled with injury this season, and has understandably looked rusty upon his return to the Bayern starting eleven.

      Bongarts/Getty Images

    • 10/49 Fernandinho

      While the midfielder is out of contract next summer, it is believed that Guardiola is keen for the City hierarchy to offer the 32-year-old Brazilian a new contract.

      Getty Images

    • 11/49 Daley Blind

      Having made only 13 appearances for Mourinho’s side in all competitions this season, the versatile Dutchman has been linked with a move to Barcelona.

      Getty Images

    • 12/49 Ashley Young

      Following his conversion to full-back by manager Jose Mourinho, the 32-year-old has scored twice and provided four assists with his dangerous delivery from out wide. Teams in the Premier League will be keen to secure the former Aston Villa player’s experience next term.

      Man Utd via Getty Images

    • 13/49 Giorgio Chiellini

      At 33 the Italian centre-back is still a world-class player, and with less than a year on his contract, will surely be a bargain for whoever secures his services next summer.

      Getty Images

    • 14/49 Zlatan Ibrahimovic

      Undoubted class, but at 36, whether the Swede represents value for money is another matter, with the striker one of the highest paid players in the Premier League.

      Getty Images

    • 15/49 Fernando Torres

      The former Liverpool striker has had to settle for a place on the bench since his return to Atletico Madrid, behind Antoine Griezmann and Kevin Gameiro in the pecking order. A move away surely beckons for the 33-year-old.

      Getty Images

    • 16/49 Aaron Lennon

      Former-Spurs flyer Lennon has not been offered a new contract by current club Everton, but will certainly add Premier League know-how to promoted sides looking to avoid relegation next season.

      Getty Images

    • 17/49 Arjen Robben

      Bayern’s other veteran winger has also had an injury-stricken season in Bavaria, though has still managed to score three and assist four in all competitions. The Dutchman is certainly still a threat when fully fit.

      Bongarts/Getty Images

    • 18/49 Iker Casillas

      Having won the Champions League three times, Casillas is certainly a high-quality goalkeeper. Could the Spanish veteran be a good signing for a top-European club?

      AFP/Getty Images

    • 19/49 Santi Cazorla

      Blighted by serious injuries to his Achilles and having had surgery nine times in 14 months, the diminutive midfielder will hope to regain his fitness to restart his career.

      Arsenal FC via Getty Images

    • 20/49 Bernard

      The pacey winger has enjoyed a four year spell in Ukraine with Shakhtar Donetsk, though in not signing a new contract, may have his heart set on playing in one of Europe’s top five leagues.

      AFP/Getty Images

    • 21/49 Mario Balotelli

      The enigmatic Italian striker has reignited his stop-start career in Nice with 33 goals in 49 appearances for the French side.

      AFP/Getty Images

    • 22/49 Hatem Ben Arfa

      Talent in abundance though lacking work rate, teams interested in the attacker will hope they can see the player find the form he displayed at OGC Nice, scoring 18 goals and assisting 7 in 2015/16.

      AFP/Getty Images

    • 23/49 Ezequiel Lavezzi

      The stocky Argentine forward has been on fire this season in the Chinese Super League, scoring 20 goals and assisting 19 in 27 games. A return to Europe is surely on the cards for the former-Napoli man.

      AFP/Getty Images

    • 24/49 Joel Robles

      Displaced from the Everton starting line-up by £30m summer arrival Jordan Pickford, the Spaniard will be eager to guarantee himself more game-time should next year.

      Getty Images

    • 25/49 Juanfran

      The Atletico Madrid legend, now 32, is under increasing competition from Croatian full-back Sime Vrsaljko and could be tempted by a move before retirement.

      Getty Images

    • 26/49 Amin Younes

      The Ajax forward, currently sidelined with a serious knee injury, had an excellent season in 2016/17 and was rewarded with his first Germany cap by Joachim Lowe in June this year.

      AFP/Getty Images

    • 27/49 Andre-Pierre Gignac

      The French target-man has enjoyed the most prolific spell of his career with Mexican side Tigres UANL, scoring a goal in every two games in all competitions. Proven in Ligue 1 with Marseille, the striker is capable of succeeding in Europe.

      AFP/Getty Images

    • 28/49 Yohan Cabaye

      Capable of dictating games at the top-level, the Frenchman could surely be a wildcard for a top side in the Premier League next season.

      Getty Images

    • 29/49 Joao Moutinho

      Winner of Ligue 1 with AS Monaco last year, the 31-year-old midfielder is into the final year of his contract.

      AFP/Getty Images

    • 30/49 Leon Goretzka

      The box-to-box midfielder has had an excellent start to the season, scoring 4 goals from central midfield for Schalke. The German international has been linked with moves to top European sides Barcelona and Juventus.

      Bongarts/Getty Images

    • 31/49 Carlos Vela

      The Mexican wideman has found goals hard to come by this season, scoring just once this season for Real Sociedad.

      AFP/Getty Images

    • 32/49 Yaya Toure

      After years of speculation that Toure would leave Manchester City, the Ivorian’s time at City finally seems to coming to an end.

      Getty Images

    • 33/49 Stefan de Vrij

      Liverpool have been linked to the Netherland’s international in recent weeks as Jurgen Klopp seeks to add quality to his defence.

      Getty Images

    • 34/49 Neven Subotic

      The Bundesliga winner has made only four appearances this season, often failing to even make the bench for Dortmund.

      Getty Images

    • 35/49 Max Meyer

      The 22-year-old playmaker Meyer has been consistently linked with Liverpool, Tottenham and Barcelona and has so far refused any contract offers made by Schalke.

      Bongarts/Getty Images

    • 36/49 Dani Garcia

      The Spanish midfielder has been a mainstay for SD Eibar over the past three seasons. Offering a goal-threat from midfield with his long-distance shooting and set-piece ability, Garcia could prove a shrewd acquisition.

      Getty Images

    • 37/49 Achraf Hakimi

      The Moroccan full back has deputised well for Dani Carvajal in La Liga this season, and has shown glimpses of his potential at the Bernabeu.

      AFP/Getty Images

    • 38/49 Stephan Lichsteiner

      Disappointing performances for the Bianconeri this season, and added competition from Mattia de Sciglio have led to rumours that the Swiss defender could be set to leave Turin in January.

      Getty Images

    • 39/49 Diego Reyes

      The 25-year-old defender has guided FC Porto to the top of the Primeira Liga, conceding only six goals in the process.

      AFP/Getty Images

    • 40/49 Enes Unal

      Still only 20, the Turkish forward has seen his career stall since moving to Spain from Manchester City. Should the striker fail to sign a new contract with Villareal, a move back to the Eredivisie could prove fruitful for a striker with vast potential.

      Getty Images

    • 41/49 Rafinha

      The experienced Brazilian right-back is entering the last year of his contract with Bayern Munich. Capable of deputising at the top level, and with invaluable experience in the Champions league, the 32-year old could provide excellent cover for an elite European side next season.

      Bongarts/Getty Images

    • 42/49 Ivan Marcano

      The Porto centre-back, also capable of playing left-back, has been the subject of interest from Everton following a number of impressive displays for the Iberian club.

      AFP/Getty Images

    • 43/49 Joao Miranda

      Former Atletico Madrid star Miranda has started all but one league game for Inter Milan this term helping his side keep eight clean sheets so far. Should he fail to renew his contract with the Nerazzuri, he will be a top acquisition for any side.

      Getty Images

    • 44/49 Kepa Arrizabalaga

      The 23-year-old goalkeeper is yet to sign a new deal with Athletic Bilbao, and is rumoured to be close to agreeing a move to Real Madrid for €20m.

      Getty Images

    • 45/49 Kwadwo Asamoah

      The five-time Serie A winner is capable of playing in a variety of positions and would certainly be a valuable squad player for top sides in Europe.

      AFP/Getty Images

    • 46/49 Mark Uth

      The 26-year-old striker has been in excellent form for Hoffenheim this season, scoring 12 goals in all competitions.

      Bongarts/Getty Images

    • 47/49 Pedro Leon

      Injured since the summer, the experienced right winger would be a gamble with such little game time in the past year. If he can prove his fitness, the winger is capable of creating chances from wide areas, with six assists last season in La Liga.

      AFP/Getty Images

    • 48/49 Sergio Canales

      The Spanish playmaker is yet to agree a new contract and has proven, when fit, that he is capable of playing at the top level.

      AFP/Getty Images

    • 49/49 Zlatko Junuzovic

      The Werder Bremen creative midfielder has assisted 49 in 182 appearances, scoring 20 goals in the process.

      Bongarts/Getty Images

    Sanchez took to the Premier League quicker than most international imports when arriving at Arsenal in 2014 after never really fitting in at Guardiola’s all-conquering European kings.

    Last season was his best yet. He played in all 38 Premier League games and scored 24 goals in total, up from his 13 goals the season before and 16 in his debut term. Yet this season is different, only seven goals and a limited influence, likely to be because his head has been elsewhere and his rapport with his teammates has deteriorated.

    • Read more

    Sanchez not essential but for United want to send a message

    Playing at 100 mph, as Ronaldo will profess, takes a toll on the body and Sanchez, if he truly is ‘NR7’, has a thing or two to learn from the master of adaptation to the rigours of age. The Chilean has totalled 50 games a season for each of the last seven, remember, and he has a four-and-a-half-year deal to fulfil after all. United won’t want a repeat of Robin van Persie and his diminishing influence as he entered his 30s.

    Ronaldo won two Ballon d’Ors and finished runner-up in a third since turning 30. He is a freak, a phenomenon, one that United couldn’t even dream Sanchez of emulating, but one they will hope he learns from.

    “I speak with Cristiano all the time and I know him very well,” Zinedine Zidane said in May of last year as Ronaldo scored 10 goals in five knockout games to thrust Real Madrid to back-to-back Champions League glory. “He knows that until now, he played 60-70 games a season and the accumulation of all those years meant he needs to rest a little. All I know is that players need to rest, especially if they want to arrive at the final stage of the season in top condition.”

    cristiano-ronaldo.jpgCristiano Ronaldo has successfully remodeled his game (Getty)

    Ronaldo himself, upon turning 30 in 2015, noted the change in his game in order to manage his body, and how he became “a striker”, rather than the more physically demanding role as a winger.

    • Read more

    Why signing Sanchez is the right transfer for Mourinho, but not United

    ”I'm different now, I'm more a penalty-box player, not so much on the wing,” he told Marca after winning yet another Golden Shoe. “Because you score more goals from there, so I changed my position slightly. It's been a natural change and it's certainly kept me happy.”

    That’s what Sanchez will eventually need to learn to do under Jose Mourinho at United, and it will prove all-the-more difficult given the instant success that will be demanded of him. The Old Trafford faithful will not want to see their new signing confined to the bench in order to manage himself for bigger games.

    This, of course, is future talk, Sanchez does not turn 30 until midway through next season and will still be playing with all the vigour, energy and enthusiasm of a 10-year-old on a school playground.

    The 100mph man will be needed for the full four-and-a-half years if Manchester United are to shush their noisy neighbours, the neighbours that so nearly homed Sanchez, but if he is to do so effectively – ‘NR7’ will do well to learn to obey the 60 mph speed limit from time to time.

    • More about:
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    • Alexis Sanchez
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    • Zinedine Zidane
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