The endlessly boring discourse surrounding Ligue 1 being a ‘farmer’s league’ consistently distracts from the likes of Marseille and other sides when they do put together an impressive domestic campaign, which is exactly what Igor Tudor’s side have done this year.
In a division where Paris Saint-Germain manage to keep the top prize hostage for the majority of the time thanks to an endless cash flow provided by an oil state, even the sniff of being in contention for the Ligue 1 crown is enough for the likes of Marseille to be proud of.
They’re not settling for that, though, and neither is talisman Alexis Sanchez on his European revenge tour.
Sanchez netted his 17th goal of the season in all competitions to fire Marseille to a comeback victory over Auxerre.
On a weekend where PSG dropped points in a dramatic encounter against Lorient, the Sunday evening win for Les Phoceens puts them within five points of the defending champions, making for a more interesting end to the Ligue 1 season than Christophe Galtier’s side would’ve hoped for.
It’s been quite the rollercoaster ride for the Chilean, who very quickly went from Arsenal gunman to failed piano player and then Serie A misfit all in the space of a few seasons. Humbling, to say the least.
Especially for a player of his calibre. Because when Sanchez is on it, he’s absolutely electric. The problem is that he looked to have lost all that for good after his move to Manchester United, where it all very quickly went pear-shaped – if it was any shape other than that in the first place.
Quietly, though, Sanchez has reinvented himself on the Mediterranean coast, with unfortunately very little made of those efforts. That’s where we step in, though.
— Ligue 1 English (@Ligue1_ENG) April 30, 2023
It’s time to give the 34-year-old his flowers. Once looking done, dusted and ready for a swansong in the MLS, he now leads the line for an exciting side that is pushing oil-rich PSG to the very limit, against the odds and against everyone’s belief.
“I’m happy and content in Marseille, I love the fans,” He said, when asked about extending his current deal beyond June.
And if he can contribute to somehow toppling the beast in red and blue currently atop the table before the season ends, we’re sure the supporters would do anything to keep him around.
He doesn’t even want to entertain the idea of falling at the final hurdle, though. There’s that winning mentality coming back out to play. Big club pedigree. All the cliches you hear the pundits spout.
“We need to believe we can get the title, I believe we can do it. We need to have hope and stay united as a team,” the Chile international said.
That’s fighting talk from a man with a point to prove. And perhaps it’s exactly that.
Winning the Ligue 1 title isn’t a want for Sanchez, it’s a need. A way to complete the comeback story in a deserving fashion, sealing his time in France with the perfect kiss and righting the wrongs of his previous missteps in England and Italy.
He’s the experienced head in a side carefully blended between young and old. The killer finisher operating off the flank. And it’s been joyous watching him rediscover his best form again.
— Olympique de Marseille (@OM_Officiel) April 25, 2023
Sure, he lifted a Serie A and a Coppa Italia with Inter, but he wasn’t the one leading the charge. It’s different this time, though.
Sanchez is affecting games, firing his team to glory and dragging the rest of them up with him when it matters. The spark is back and it’s incredibly evident when watching him strut his stuff.
He’s already achieved the fourth-highest scoring season in his career and can improve on that before 2022-23 comes to an end. And undoubtedly he will.
Everything we loved about the Chilean appears to be back, from his splash of pace over short distances, his shrewd positioning off the shoulder and his ability to find the back of the net from any angle he’s presented with.
If it’s not meant to be and PSG do keep their hands on France’s top prize, then so be it. But that won’t damage the individual season that Sanchez has produced for Marseille and the lengths he has gone to, in order to enjoy the late-career resurgence he so deserved.
A wonderous footballer at his best for Barcelona and Arsenal, it’s fitting that he bows out from the very top in a similarly glowing style.
By Mitchell Wilks