City prepared to walk away from Sánchez deal
Guardiola will not be held to ransom which could open door for Mourinho and United
Premier League Liverpool v Manchester City Anfield, 4.0pm, Sunday Sky Sports Football and Main Event
Manchester City have indicated that they are ready to walk away from negotiations to sign Arsenal’s Alexis Sánchez, as José Mourinho admitted he is interested in adding the Chile forward to his Manchester United squad.
Having come close to signing Sánchez in the summer, City had felt that a deal to secure the arrival of the 29-year-old in the January transfer window was imminent after they agreed personal terms with his representatives over a contract worth £13 million a season.
A verbal offer of £20 million was lodged last week, with City informing their Arsenal counterparts that they were unwilling to raise their offer despite being informed it would take a £35 million bid to make the move happen this month.
However, after United indicated on Thursday that they were willing to offer Sánchez higher wages and pay £25 million to bring him to Old Trafford, their neighbours have warned that they will not be held to ransom for a player whose contract at the Emirates expires in June. It is understood that the Premier League leaders feel the overall price including transfer fee, wages and agent costs are too high, with City unconcerned that their stance may cause Sánchez to sign for another club in the meantime.
That appears to have opened the door for United, with Mourinho admitting yesterday he would be interested in what he described as a “phenomenal player”.
“At the general level what I can say is myself and Manchester United board, owners, we don’t believe a lot in the January market, we don’t believe in signing a player just to sign a player,” Mourinho said. “What we believe really is there are some players in the football world if you have the chance to sign them in January, March or July, you have to try and that’s it.
“But in relation to Alexis Sánchez I don’t say a word. The only word I can say is he is a phenomenal player, apart from that an Arsenal player, and I feel I shouldn’t say much more than this.”
Pep Guardiola, whose City side travel to Anfield to face fourth-placed Liverpool tomorrow looking to extend their unbeaten run in the Premier League this season to 23 matches, refused to discuss any move for Sánchez.
“I understand completely this question, I understand you are doing your job, but you know my answer,” he said. “I am not going [to speak about it]. I’m focused on Liverpool, believe me. Alexis – everyone knows how good he is, but I am not going to answer about Alexis or other players.” – Guardian
Leroy Sané’s welcoming demeanour suggests a young footballer enjoying his stellar rise at Manchester City. There is an intelligence in his eyes and a willingness to discuss anything – including Alexis Sánchez’s possible arrival this month – as he relaxes in a chair at the club’s training complex.
Sánchez’s regular berth is on the left of attack, the area from which Sané terrorises defences. Yet there is no concern should the Arsenal forward, the subject of a £20 million bid, join City during the transfer window and threaten Sané’s place in the starting XI.
“No, it doesn’t worry me personally,” the German says. “He’s a very good player. If he comes to us – I don’t know it will happen – he can help us. No player would say: ‘Oh I hope he doesn’t come.’ Every one of us is playing really well right now and everyone has confidence. But there are so many games – so everyone is going to get games.
“If you don’t get challenged, then you can’t find out how good you are. Even if he is better, you can look up to him, learn and try to improve with him. That makes you a better player. Even if someone like that comes in and is in front of you – if he plays more – the target is to get in front of him in the first XI. So it makes you work harder.”
City are at Liverpool tomorrow and Jürgen Klopp’s side know how good Sané can be. In September’s reverse fixture he produced one of his finest displays since joining from Schalke for £37 million in the summer of 2016.
After 57 minutes he replaced Gabriel Jesus. City were 3-0 ahead, Sadio Mané had been sent off for the visitors, and Sané was ruthless in killing off Liverpool, scoring twice to complete a 5-0 win. He says: “I try, like always, to help the team, and to score two goals was very good for the team and for me, too.”
City’s title challenge is a near-procession 22 matches in. Pep Guardiola’s team hold a 15-point lead over Manchester United and are a further three better off than Liverpool. Yet Sané knows the trip to Anfield will be a battle.
“They have a very good team, good strikers,” he says. “[Roberto] Firmino, [Mo] Salah, Mané – quick players. They will look for mistakes from us and try to play counterattacks. That’s why it’s a tough game. It was an equal game at the start of the season because they also had chances to score the first goal.
“They didn’t and then Mané was sent off, that was better for us. After we got the goal, we had much more confidence, they had a player less. The coach has also said it will be a tough game; it’s against Liverpool, they’re at Anfield and that’s why we are all looking forward to it.”
Klopp is a long-time admirer of Sané. He had hoped to sign his countryman for Liverpool. “Yes, I was also talking with them,” says Sané, who made his senior debut for Schalke in April 2014. “Jürgen was calling me too, talking to me. That was before I joined City. He did a good job at [Borussia] Dortmund – I met him when he was there. He’s a good guy, nice guy – honest. He [has] worked well with Liverpool.”
City are flying in all four competitions. They are 90 minutes away from the Carabao Cup final at Wembley as they take a 2-1 lead to Bristol City for Tuesday week’s semi-final second leg. There is an FA Cup fourth-round date at the winner of the Cardiff City-Mansfield Town replay. And next month the Champions League challenge is resumed with a last-16 tie against Basel.
Sané, who has nine Germany caps, can look forward to an exciting summer at international level too, when Joachim Löw’s team defend the World Cup in Russia. His eyes sparkle when the notion of a clean sweep with club and country is put to him. “I think I’d retire – at 22,” he says and laughs. “One season and four titles with City and then the World Cup – that would be enough. If it happened, it would be an amazing year, but I don’t think it will happen. I hope but I don’t think so.”
Sané’s haul of nine goals means he has equalled last term’s tally. He is City’s fastest player and the sight of him burning away from defenders is a joy of watching this Guardiola team. What fascinates most is how good Sané may become. He is a first choice, but City’s manager speaks of how much Sané can improve.
He agrees. “No player at the beginning of his career knows how good he can be,” he says. “It’s exciting and for me it’s a challenge to see how good I can be, how I can get to the best level. It’s really nice to see how it will go.”
While taking nothing for granted, Sané would love to help City claim the title and then retain it, a feat only United and Chelsea have achieved in the Premier League era.
“We always say we want to keep going on – we want to go as far as we can,” he says. “The final of the Carabao Cup, the final of the FA Cup, the Premier League; we want to go through and also to be in Kiev for the Champions League final.
“It’s a dream for everyone. That’s why we are all working so hard. It’s very good for the team – everyone wants to win titles and improve.”
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Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez: his contract at the Emirates expires in June