Jorge Sampaoli, manager of the Chile national side, has hailed Alexis Sanchez's 2014 decision to leave Barcelona for Arsenal, saying the forward has found the perfect environment to thrive at the Emirates Stadium. He believes the Gunners maestro was "too impatient" to prove his worth at the Nou Camp, but has now "exploded" in North London in a role similar to the one he enjoys with his national side.
Sanchez moved to Barcelona in the summer of 2011 with a reputation as one of the hottest players in Europe, thanks to his time with Udinese. However, despite bagging 47 goals in 141 appearances in La Liga, he failed to conquer the hearts of their supporters and was often overshadowed by Lionel Messi and, later, Neymar.
Arsene Wenger took advantage of this state of affairs to lure the player into his side, beating Liverpool, Juventus and Atletico Madrid with a fee of around £32m ($46.3m) required for his services. Despite struggling with injuries on occasion, the Chilean has come to be seen as one of the best players in England, scoring 34 goals and providing 18 assists in 72 appearances so far.
Sampaoli believes the move was good for Sanchez as he needs to feel as though he is the leader of the team.
"[During his time at Barcelona[ we spoke to [managers] Tito [Vilanova] and [Gerardo] Martino, under who he played a larger role because of his playing style, but I knew that it was difficult to bed him in to the system as he is the type of player who needs to feel good and feel that he is important," Sampaoli said to AS.
"With so many stars there it was difficult. He exploded at Arsenal and became a decisive player, the star of the team, and he delivered more than he did at Barcelona, where fitting into the style of play, and with so many big players, it was more difficult."
"[At a national level] we have a more even spread, but Alexis is decisive for us with his goals and assists, that's obvious. At Barcelona he knew that there were players who were more important than him or better than him and that led to a certain impatience that resulted in his performance levels dropping."
Sampaoli, meanwhile, has confirmed that he is ready to leave his job as Chile manager in the coming weeks after leading the national team to the Copa America title in the summer and subsequently being honoured as the third best FIFA World Coach of the Year, behind Luis Enrique and Pep Guardiola.
"Yes, yes. The idea is that after the matters that are public knowledge, the president's departure and the matters that are linked, which have nothing to do with football and are more complicated from the human perspective than the sporting one, we told the new directorship that we were not comfortable with the situation and that under the circumstances we don't have the energy to carry on. We are in discussions now with them about how best to resolve the issue."