Peter Crouch is a columnist for Sportsmail
Alexis Sanchez was going to change everything for Manchester United. I was convinced. When they signed him in January 2018, I saw a player who could take them to the title and, potentially, help them conquer Europe.
Sanchez was in the ‘untouchable’ bracket when he played for Arsenal. I remember playing against him for Stoke in January 2015 at the Emirates Stadium: we were firmly in the game but then — Bang! Bang! — he scored two goals, just like that, and the game was taken away from us.
He was comparable to Thierry Henry and Robin van Persie in terms of the effect he had on Arsenal, a game definer who carried those around him. You could see in the way Sanchez played that he loved being the main man, so it was no surprise United and Manchester City wanted him.
When he turned up in Manchester, I expected him to get 35 goals a season and be decorated in trophies. What I didn’t envisage was him being pushed out the door on loan within 18 months in a dramatic attempt to kick-start his career.
I hope it turns around for him, I really do. One of the worst things you can see in football is a top-class player go into a sudden and unexpected decline, when their form and confidence desert them, and that has clearly happened to Sanchez.
I fear Alexis Sanchez will turn into the new Fernando Torres after failing at Manchester United
Torres was lightning quick and scored goals for Liverpool but his time at Chelsea left a mark
Speaking to those around the situation, they tell me he is a quiet lad and insular. A run of five goals in 45 matches as a striker would have you climbing the walls. You would speak to anyone you could for advice, but the indications are that Sanchez is someone who keeps himself to himself.
There are arguments that Sanchez has simply lost his hunger because of the huge wage United are paying him, and he has received criticism for that, too. It is, of course, an extraordinary amount of money but how can he be blamed?
If there is blame for the wage, it should be pinned squarely on those at Old Trafford who sanctioned the deal. Sanchez didn’t put a gun to their head and demand they pay it. He had a rival offer from City and his agent simply did what he was supposed to — got the best terms for his client.
Money doesn’t provide any comfort when you are wondering why you can’t do the things that used to come naturally. It doesn’t mean much when the fans are on your back and you are getting criticised from all angles. I’ve had it myself and it isn’t pleasant, by any means.
I didn’t envisage Sanchez being pushed out the door on loan within 18 months at United
Sometimes, it is simply the case that you can go to the right club at the wrong time. Look at Philippe Coutinho. I thought he would tear it up for Barcelona but he’s had to go to Bayern Munich as things haven’t worked out. If he turned up back at Liverpool, I think he would have taken off again.
Maybe Inter is exactly what Sanchez needs and perhaps he will come back to the Premier League to do what we all know he can. I do, however, have my concerns and there is one name that keeps coming back to me: Fernando Torres.
The Fernando I knew at Liverpool, who was lightning quick, strong and scored goals for fun, went to Chelsea, ready to cement his standing as one of the best strikers in the world, but the experience at Stamford Bridge left a mark. Everyone thought that moving to AC Milan and then on to Atletico Madrid, his boyhood club, would re-light his fire but the truth is he was never the same player after he left Anfield.
I hope things are different for Alexis Sanchez — but I’m not sure they will be.
The Chile international was in the ‘untouchable’ bracket when he played for Arsenal
GOOD CALL BY ENGLAND ON MADDISON AND MOUNT
The change that Gareth Southgate has overseen to the England team continues and this latest squad has left me excited for the future.
The standout news was Kyle Walker’s omission, but I don’t believe this is the end of his England career.
We are blessed at right back and both Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Trent Alexander-Arnold are in form. The standard in that position is incredible.
One man jumped out in the squad Southgate selected and that was Leicester’s James Maddison. Regular readers will know how much I have spoken about him in the past and I am delighted to see him get this opportunity.
Maddison could be a top player for England. He sees passes, he makes things happen and has the potential to supply a lot of opportunities for Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford. Maddison plays the game with imagination and he can open doors in games.
It’s great to see Mason Mount in there, too. I know Frank Lampard rates him highly and I saw why myself last week at Norwich.
Here are two players who have the opportunity to make a name for themselves in the build up to Euro 2020. They have the ability to stay in this squad for good.
One man jumped out in Gareth Southgate’s England squad and that was James Maddison
It’s great to see Mason Mount in there after shining for Chelsea in the Premier League
NOW I’M RETIRED… I’M PUTTING MY MONEY ON JUVE TO WIN THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
We all know the rules about footballers and betting, but now that I have retired, I am free to back my hunches and I shall be doing so in the Champions League.
I expect it to be plain sailing for all our representatives in the competition following the group stage draw. Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea should sail through to the last 16. Tottenham’s task looks slightly trickier but, even so, I expect them to progress.
City, understandably, are favourites. Pep Guardiola, the players and the owners want this trophy more than anything, but I still can’t get it out of my head that their fans aren’t turned on by success in Europe. It always seems to affect them when it matters most.
Liverpool, given their history, will want to go all the way back to Istanbul in their attempt to win No 7, and they have outstanding claims.
But my eye was caught by the fact Juventus have been priced up at 10-1. They have built a superb squad, and with Cristiano Ronaldo still a formidable force, they pose a threat to all. I shall be putting my £1 on them.
My money is on Juventus for Champions League with Cristiano Ronaldo still a formidable force
MY FINAL WORD…
Football dominates our lives but this week we saw that, really, it means nothing. Luis Enrique, a Barcelona legend and Spanish hero, lost his nine-year-old daughter, Xana, on Thursday. My deepest sympathies go to Luis and his family. As a father to a daughter of a similar age, I cannot even begin to imagine the pain he must be feeling.