Alexis Sanchez: Why Arsenal striker will still end up at Man City, if he wants to
It would be a huge coup for Manchester United if they snatch Alexis Sanchez from under Manchester City's nose, because they know Blues boss Pep Guardiola has been chasing him for a while now.
United's interest in the Arsenal forward came out of the blue when it was reported a few days ago but, from listening to their manager Jose Mourinho's news conference on Friday, it does sound like they have made a move for him and I can understand why.
Mourinho said he does not like to speak about other club's players, but then described Sanchez as "phenomenal", so it would definitely appear he wants him.
I would still be surprised if Sanchez ends up at Old Trafford, though, because since last summer it has seemed like he would be joining City at some point.
Now that move is apparently in doubt because City will not meet Arsenal's asking price but, if Sanchez does still want to go to Etihad Stadium, then he will, because he holds all the cards now.
Even if the Gunners do not agree a fee with City this month, then he can go there for free when his contract ends in the summer. Sanchez only has to sit tight for another four or five months for that to happen.
Arsenal might bench him and not play him if he stays against their wishes, so it would be a pretty miserable time for him, but Chile are not at this summer's World Cup finals so he does not need games in the same way some top players do.
It will be his decision and, whether he ends up at City or United, it will have nothing to do with finances for him because, wherever he goes, he is going to be a very wealthy man.
City are exciting everyone at the moment
I don't know what Sanchez is thinking but my guess - and it is a guess - is that he will choose City.
There are some pretty obvious reasons why Sanchez would want to go to the Etihad Stadium.
He knows Guardiola from their time together at Barcelona and he also knows he would be joining the best team in the country, with the chance of winning lots of trophies this season and in the future too.
Despite Sunday's defeat at Liverpool they are still the team that are exciting everyone at the moment. There is no doubt they are on the up, and it looks like they are going to be there for a while.
Also, at 29, Sanchez is no spring chicken. He has probably got another three or four years at the highest level which, looking at it logically, is also when this City side will be at their peak.
Sanchez would walk into the United team
United are an attractive proposition too, of course.
Guardiola might be having the greater impact at the moment but Mourinho is still a top manager, and also has a fantastic record wherever he has been.
So Sanchez would still have a good chance of success at United, and he would also walk straight into their team.
While he would improve City's squad, he would not be an automatic choice there. He would be rotated and would not play every week, or certainly not as often as he would at United.
I don't think that is a reason for him not to join City, though, because they are still in with a chance of winning four competitions this season, and he would definitely get enough games.
We don't know exactly who he would replace at City when everyone is fit, because they have got so many options, and he could fit in anywhere along their frontline.
But Guardiola wants him now not just because he will fit into the way City play, but because he is eligible to play in the Champions League and FA Cup as well as the Premier League.
How have Arsenal allowed this to happen?
United are supposedly willing to pay £35m for a player who has only got a few months left on his contract, which might seem a lot when they could get him for nothing in the summer.
But a player of his class with 18 months left on his contract would go for about £80-90m nowadays so it would still be decent business from their point of view.
It is staggering that Arsenal have allowed a situation like this to develop.
For months we have been listening to Gunners manager Arsene Wenger saying that they hope to keep Sanchez and, while we don't know what has been happening internally, from the outside it appears it has never been likely that he will stay.
If a player gets to the last five months of his contract then it appears pretty certain that he will leave - Sanchez could even sign a pre-contract with another club now, and join them in the summer, if he wanted to.
For Sanchez not to play against Bournemouth on Sunday, and also be left out of their FA Cup defeat by Nottingham Forest last weekend, indicates something might be about to happen soon.
If not, then he might have to see his contract out but, one way or another, it looks like he is leaving and Arsenal only have themselves to blame.
In recent years, a top-four finish has always been good enough for Arsenal under Wenger because, financially, qualifying for the Champions League has always been acceptable for them.
But it is looking increasingly likely that they won't make the top four again this year, and they are also about to lose out on a lot of money because they have allowed players' contracts to run down too.
They could lose Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere for nothing in the summer and, even if they get £20-30m for Sanchez then that is all they will see out of the thick end of £150m-worth of players.
Then they have to replace them - and they would have to spend another £150m doing that.
So for all the great work that Wenger has done for them financially over the years, they are about to miss out on an absolute fortune this year.
They are the real losers here, not whoever misses out on Sanchez out of City or United.
These are worrying times for the Gunners because they are already miles behind both Manchester teams and it looks like they will be getting weaker, not stronger, in the near future.
Alan Shearer was speaking to BBC Sport's Chris Bevan.
|Sanchez's time at Arsenal|
|July 2014 - joins Arsenal for £35m from Barcelona on a four-year deal, despite interest from Liverpool and Juventus|
|May 2015 - finishes the season as Arsenal's top scorer with 25 goals, including a goal in the FA Cup final win over Aston Villa|
|May 2016 - finishes season with 17 goals, despite missing over a month with a hamstring injury, but the Gunners fail to win a trophy|
|May 2017 - top scores for Arsenal again, with 30, as they win the FA Cup but fail to qualify for the Champions League|
|August 2017 - agrees a £55m move to Manchester City, but Arsenal cancel the deal when they fail to sign Thomas Lemar to replace him|
|January 2018 - after the forward scores eight goals in the first half of the season, City again consider signing him with six months left on his deal|