Alexis Sánchez dropped his mustache. “To look sexier,” he said. But it’s certainly part of the integral process that the Chile side’s perennial goalscorer began what he describes as “a new era”. He also changed his jersey number. He was always number 7, but in Monday’s 3-2 win against Paraguay he wore the same number as on his debut with La Roja, number 10. Unusually talkative, he came on a few days before Eduardo Berizzo’s team’s only friendly game This FIFA date , Alexis had doomed the fate of the most successful generation of all time, able to contest two consecutive World Cups – 2010 and 2014 – and winning two Copa América finals for Messi’s Argentina. “The golden generation is over. You have to put it in a trunk and never open it again.
The re-foundation process proposed by Tocopillano has not been attempted by anyone else in the Chilean team, eliminated at the last two World Cups. Loaded with glory, fame and money, the group broke up amid mutual accusations between Claudio Bravo and Arturo Vidal after being painfully left behind en route to the Russian Cup. From then on, he never picked up the competitive aspect again, seeing the Reinaldo Rueda and Martín Lasarte trials searching in vain for his winning thread.
Neither the Colombian nor the Uruguayan dared to go that far. Both entrusted the team to the veterans with discreet results and a vain search for the so-called “replacement”. Alexis himself was shipwrecked in a lengthy ordeal, compounded when connection with the public was lost in the pandemic games, and in the numerous disciplinary sanctions handed out by Conmebol for xenophobic, homophobic and racist yelling he delivered at every home game.
Berizzo came into this scenario unencouraged even against old banners of the Chilean team, which he supported wherever he could. He failed to win in the first seven games of his cycle, losing the goal and the brilliance. Until Alexis arrived to find his mustache and lust again.
In a long and unusual interview with the public broadcaster, the Olympique de Marseille forward made it clear that he must forget old glory, archive the medals won and start a new cycle, even if several of his team-mates refuse to ship leave Claudio Bravo – the captain – is already 40; Arturo Vidal may not be a regular at Flamengo and Gary Medel may not have the proverbial speed that made him a symbol in Bologna, but the three were undisputed starters in the key game against Paraguay. And once again they didn’t come out with praise, as all the applause went to Alexis, who was eliminated from the starting team for a kick to the foot.
As the side lost two-to-one, ideas faltered and Berizzo’s continuity faltered, the boy prodigy stepped in in the second half (he had a bit of foot pain) and changed the fate of history. Fast, punctual, talented, mischievous and with an undisputed lead, he turned the result around by a goal and a half, as the winner was an unspeakable mistake by goalkeeper Antony Silva from a corner serve. To an ovation, he once again stood in front of the microphones to affirm his doctrine and sent a subtle message to his colleagues: The mistakes that have been made must be corrected, otherwise there is not enough excitement.
The new profile of the 10 of Chile is very distinctive. Alexis has always been the union of the vanities of a group consumed by egos and divided by indiscipline. Living in the shadow of the antagonistic leadership of Vidal and Bravo, it seemed his influence would eventually fade after his opaque performances at Manchester United and Inter Milan, like the rest of his team-mates, many of whom are already retired. . . Before the lawsuit, Matías Fernández and Jorge Valdivia were honored, two of the greatest talents the Chilean courts saw.
But in Marseille, Sánchez was reunited with his best version and took a deep breath to become a leader and icon. Of a new generation that he intends to be, guided by himself of course, with the understanding that he can reach the 2026 World Cup without issue – he is a disciplined guardian of his body.
The bet is big and ambitious. The new Alexis made its debut. With a mustache and the 10. And somewhere he keeps the key to the trunk, where he rests of his own volition, which was the golden generation he’s now trying to replace.
Aldo Schiappass is one of the most important sports journalism companies in Chile. With a career in television, radio and written media, he is one of the conductors of País ADN. In EL PAÍS he writes columns about Chilean sport and social life.
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