It is difficult to recall, in recent years at least, a top-level career which has gone off the rails quite so spectacularly as that of Alexis Sanchez.
In January 2018, the forward was the subject of a bitter tug-of-war between the two Manchester clubs for his services, both City and United desperate to land a player who had lit up the Premier League at Arsenal. United won out, but it proved to be a hollow victory, as Alexis immediately entered a deep and seemingly irreversible slump at Old Trafford.
The talent is still there. On one of the few occasions Sanchez has been afforded regular first-team football, at the 2019 Copa America, he was one of the players of the tournament, as he guided Chile to the semi-finals in their ultimately unsuccessful bid for a third straight international title.
That boost, as well as the promise of a new start on loan with Inter under long-time admirer Antonio Conte, seemed to suggest that 2019-20 would bring better fortunes after 18 hellish months at United.
Sadly for Alexis, that loan switch has also failed to pan out. The striker has made a paltry two Serie A starts to date – the same number of games which he has started at international level – due to a combination of injury issues and the formidable partnership formed by Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez.
When Alexis has appeared, he has looked sluggish, off the pace and out of shape, contributing just a single goal to Inter’s efforts in what looks set to be a forgettable spell back in Italy. His repeated failures are a mystery even to those who know the former Barca, Arsenal and Udinese ace best.
“Sometimes, in football, there is no explanation for every single thing that happens,” ex-United colleague Ander Herrera told The Athletic. “Alexis is one of them. He came from Arsenal. He used to win games by himself for Arsenal.
“It shows football sometimes has no explanation. How can a player, who one month before, two months before, is the best player by far in a big team like Arsenal… then he comes to United and he doesn’t perform? I have no explanation.”
At the age of 31, Alexis should be at his prime, but between his United woes, Inter frustrations and coronavirus, he has seen two of what should have been his best years as a pro swirl down the drain.
For now, he still has his bit-part role at San Siro, with Inter practically out of the Scudetto race but still active in the Coppa Italia – he is likely to start once more from the bench in Saturday’s semi-final against Napoli – and Europa League, and keen to retain his services at least until his loan reaches its initial expiration date of June 30.