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Chelsea ignore Alexis Sanchez saga but stance could make sense

As Manchester United and Manchester City battle it out for the signing of unsettled Arsenal star Alexis Sanchez, many Chelsea supporters are wondering why their club are nowhere to be seen in the race.

It's very rare for an elite player -- particularly one with Sanchez's pedigree in the Premier League -- to become available at a price so far below his true market value, Chelsea are struggling to score goals and Antonio Conte has made it clear that he is an admirer. But there are other factors in this equation that complicate matters and make signing the Chilean less than a no-brainer.

ESPN FC runs through the main issues that Chelsea will have considered as they weigh up whether to move for Sanchez.


He is truly elite. Sanchez is, by most estimations, a top five attacking player in the Premier League. He has consistently justified such status since the moment he arrived at Arsenal in 2014 and last season was his best to date, registering 24 goals and 10 assists in 38 league appearances. There is no doubt he would improve Chelsea from day one, closing the gap to City and making the Blues a huge threat to upset Barcelona and go deep into the Champions League.

Signing him would be a huge statement. Chelsea's most important challenge in 2018 is keeping Eden Hazard and, to a slightly lesser extent, Thibaut Courtois, out of the clutches of Real Madrid. New long-term contracts with big pay rises are the minimum requirement to get it done, but both men must also be convinced that Stamford Bridge is the place to spend the rest of their prime years. Neither have won the Champions League, and Chelsea need a significant talent upgrade to transform themselves from fringe contenders to the same bracket as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Paris-Saint Germain and City. Sanchez alone is not enough, but getting him would be a very encouraging start.

His arrival might convince Conte to stay. The sense for months around Stamford Bridge has been that Chelsea will have a new head coach next season. Conte has been almost entirely frustrated in pursuit of his preferred signings in his time at the club, instead forced to work with compromise purchases (Marcos Alonso, Davide Zappacosta) or long-term club targets (Tiemoue Bakayoko, Ross Barkley). Last season's Premier League title win was a triumph of Conte's adaptability and coaching skill, but signing Sanchez would be a timely message from the Chelsea hierarchy that they are willing to give him what he feels he needs to keep winning now.

While the Manchester clubs have been keen, Chelsea have opted against entering the Alexis Sanchez bidding battle.


He is not "a bargain". Any club in the Premier League -- and probably one or two in the Championship -- could satisfy Arsenal's £35 million asking price for Sanchez. But the transfer fee is never the most important expense for clubs when acquiring players. Sanchez is reportedly asking for between £350,000 and £400,000-a-week, a wage that would make him the highest-paid player in England. There are also suggestions that his agent, Fernando Felicevich, will demand between £5m and £10m to close a deal. Given the fact that Chelsea baulked at paying Mino Raiola a princely commission to secure Romelu Lukaku last summer, this could well prove a stumbling block. But the key issue is what Sanchez would earn. Chelsea have never paid a player that much and it is unclear whether they are willing or even able to. If they are, that player is more likely to be Hazard, who could justifiably refuse to take a penny less than Sanchez for any contract extension. Agree to both, and Chelsea's wage bill would be crippling.

He doesn't fit Chelsea's recruitment profile. Sanchez is 29 and, in addition to the eye-watering weekly wage, his next contract will take him into his mid-30s. When you consider how important athleticism is to his game and the mileage he has clocked up in recent years -- he has played 92 matches for Chile since 2010 on top of his extensive club commitments, enjoying just two summers off in the last eight -- there is a decent chance that whoever signs him will end up, at the back end, saddled with a faded star on huge money who can no longer contribute at an elite level and has no resale value. Chelsea's policy of only offering one-year extensions to players over the age of 30 was put in place to protect the club from precisely this kind of situation.

Is it wise to invest so much in Conte? Chelsea don't make a habit of basing their big signings on who their coaches want, because coaches tend to come and go at Stamford Bridge. Conte loves Sanchez and it's his job to win now, so he should desire every elite player available. But there are no guarantees he will stay beyond the summer even if the Chilean arrives and with the Premier League title already gone, Chelsea's window for major success this season is small. It's the responsibility of those above Conte to take the longer view, and any move for Sanchez would require a huge long-term commitment.

Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.


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