From Messi to Mel­bourne

Ar­gen­tinean Ma­tias Sanchez has faced or played with the best names in the game. Now he’s out to prove his worth at Vic­tory…

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Vic­tory’s Ma­tias Sanchez

Mel­bourne Vic­tory new sign­ing Ma­tias Sanchez took on Lionel Messi and the world – and came within sec­onds of beat­ing both. In 2009, his Ar­gen­tine Primera Di­vi­sion side Es­tu­di­antes de La Plata bat­tled through to the fi­nal of the Club World Cup to come up against the awein­spir­ing might of Barcelona. The mid­fielder who was 22 at the time, came on in the 76th minute for Le­an­dro Benitez as his side held a 1-0 lead from the first half and had one hand on the tro­phy in the dy­ing mo­ments. But in the 89th minute Pe­dro struck to level the score and drove the game into ex­tra time. As penal­ties loomed, Messi popped up to de­liver a late win­ner and snatch the cup from his coun­try­men’s clutches. “It was in Abu Dhabi and we lost in the last min­utes… Pe­dro scored and then in ex­tra-time, Messi scored and we lost 2-1,” Sanchez re­calls. “We were very un­happy be­cause we worked hard through­out the com­pe­ti­tion. We thought we’d win but it was a good ex­pe­ri­ence.” He’s used to star qual­ity though. In 2007 he was in Ar­gentina’s tri­umphant U20 World Cup squad with An­gel Di Maria, Ser­gio Aguero and Mauro Zarate. His CV in­cludes ex­pe­ri­ence with five Ar­gen­tine clubs, a stint in the MLS for Colom­bus Crew where he met Tim Cahill and a brief spell with Su­per­league Greece side Le­va­di­akos where he faced former West­ern Syd­ney Wan­der­ers man Ni­co­las Martinez. The 30-year-old also en­joyed ti­tle-winning suc­cess with Es­tu­di­antes winning the Copa Lib­er­ta­dores in 2009 and the do­mes­tic league in 2011, and he reck­ons his ex­pe­ri­ence play­ing with and against the best in world will help him at Vic­tory. “The ex­pe­ri­ence helps, I need to keep fight­ing and it’s very in­tense here,” he says. “If we con­tinue to train like this with a high in­ten­sity, then we’ll have good re­sults.” Usu­ally a cen­tral mid­fielder, coach Kevin Mus­cat may move Sanchez to a more de­fen­sive mid role this sea­son. He played his first game in Vic­tory colours in a pre-sea­son friendly 3-1 win over Brisbane Roar where he in­tro­duced him­self with an at­tempted bi­cy­cle kick. So far, he be­lieves the A-League’s stan­dard matches the MLS in the US. “They’re alike, es­pe­cially phys­i­cally, the first idea play fast to score a goal,” he says. “In Ar­gentina, first you try to keep the ball be­fore go­ing to the goal and this is dif­fer­ent. “I have to adapt with the dif­fer­ent ideas here but I feel good. I’ve been here for just one month and I’m happy. The club is the big­gest in Mel­bourne and for me, it’s very im­por­tant to come here for a new ex­pe­ri­ence.” Sanchez’s wife, Agustina, his six-year-old daugh­ter Olivia and three-year-old son Rafael all ar­rived in Mel­bourne in early Septem­ber. He adds: “I feel good here. M y team­mates and head coach have re­ceived me very well. The most im­por­tant thing is we fight for im­por­tant things. In Jan­uary we have Asian Cham­pi­ons League – it’s a new com­pe­ti­tion for me, so I want a new ex­pe­ri­ence. It’ll be dif­fer­ent.”

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