Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has brought a total of nine first-team players to North London from La Liga since he arrived in 1996, and this summer looks to be no exception should the Gunners tie up a proposed deal for Sanchez. He will join the Gunners ranks as the only Chilean, but he’ll already be familiar with Mesut Ozil - formerly of Real Madrid - as well as Nacho Monreal and Santi Cazorla, who were both previously at Malaga in La Liga.
Ozil remains Arsenal’s club record signing after making his £42.5 million move from Real Madrid where he was regarded as the best playmaker in Spain over the course of his three-year stay. In terms of signings, Ozil and Alexis Sanchez are on the same level of ‘marquee’ signing status and the fans will be understandably just as excited about his potential arrival as they were last September.
Whilst left back Monreal was a decent buy to cover for Kieran Gibbs, Sanchez’ signing is more closely related to Cazorla, who arrived from his homeland for around £16 million in the summer of 2012. The pint-sized midfielder is equally as flexible as Sanchez and can play anywhere across the midfield and the wide areas and is one of the best players in the Premier League in terms of his technical quality and passing.
Previous signings of Sebastian Squillaci who arrived from Sevilla in 2010 and youngster Fran Merida who joined from Barcelona’s academy in 2005 were widely perceived as ‘flops’ during their time in North London, whilst goalkeeper Manuel Almunia was a decent and loyal servant to the club over the course of the eight years he spent after signing in 2004 from Celta.
Arsenal broke their transfer record in January 2004 to sign £13 million Jose Antonio Reyes from Sevilla. The Spaniard was at the time considered one of the most technically gifted players in Spain and was a full Spain international whom Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was absolutely terrified of.
The Scot subsequently seemed intent on getting him team to kick the living daylights out of the winger and he never really settled into the physical demands of the English game before decided to return to his homeland to join Atletico Madrid permanently after a loan spell at Real Madrid in 2006/07. On paper, Sanchez could have a similar kind of impact at Arsenal and in the Premier League to Reyes being of a similar quality and threat to defences.
A former Arsenal captain who has since returned to the Premier League to join Chelsea, Cesc Fabregas was arguably the best player from La Liga Arsene Wenger ever signed. The Spain midfielder arrived in 2003 as a sixteen year old and over the course of his eight-year stay became arguably the most gifted midfielder in the country.
He was sold back to his boyhood club Barcelona in 2011 for £35 million but will still be remembered as one of the best Gunners’ skippers in the Wenger era of the club. He’ll know a thing or two about the danger posed by his former teammate Sanchez, who is arguably the better signing for the money being suggested of £30 million in terms of the impact he can have on the Gunners’ attacking lines.
Finally, the first ever signing Arsene Wenger brought in from La Liga was Croatia striker Davor Suker from Real Madrid in 1999. He may have only stayed one season but his signing was exciting at the time following his performance at the 1998 World Cup. He 11 goals in 39 appearances for the Gunners and the fans will be hoping Alexis Sanchez might stay a little longer than that.
Overall, if Sanchez signs for Arsenal he’ll be right up there with the best signings from La Liga Wenger has ever made – Ozil, Cazorla, Fabregas, Reyes and Davor Suker, whilst becoming the tenth signing in 18 years that the French coach has imported from Spain.