Alexis Sánchez left his mustache. “To look sexier,” he assured. But surely it is part of the integral process that the all-time goalscorer of the Chilean team began to start with what he himself has called “a new era”. He also changed the number of his jersey. He was always number 7, but in the 3-2 win against Paraguay on Monday he looked the same as in his debut with The Red, on the 10th. Unusually talkative, a few days before the only friendly duel for Eduardo Berizzo’s team on this FIFA date, Alexis had sentenced the fate of the most successful generation of all time, who was able to play two consecutive World Cups –2010 and 2014– and that won 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 refounding process proposed by the Tocopillano was not attempted by anyone else in the Chilean team, which was eliminated from the last two World Cups. Loaded with glory, fame and money, the group disintegrated with mutual accusations between Claudio Bravo and Arturo Vidal after being left painfully on the way to the Russian Cup. From then on, he never resumed the competitive aspect, seeing the trials of Reinaldo Rueda and Martín Lasarte go by in a vain search 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 what was called “the replacement”. Alexis himself was shipwrecked in a long ordeal that was accentuated when the link with the public was lost in the pandemic matches and in the multiple disciplinary punishments that Conmebol applied for xenophobic, homophobic and racist shouts that he applied every time he played at home.
Berizzo arrived in this scenario, who was also not encouraged against old banners of the Chilean team, whom he supported whenever he could. He failed to win in the first seven games of his cycle, losing the goal and the brilliance. Until Alexis arrived, his mustache and his refounding desire.
In a long and unusual interview with the public channel, the Olympique de Marseille forward made clear the need to forget about the old glories, to archive the medals won and to start a new cycle, even though several of his teammates resist leave the ship Claudio Bravo -the captain- is already 40; Arturo Vidal is not a starter at Flamengo and Gary Medel no longer has the proverbial speed that led him to become a symbol in Bologna, but the three were undisputed starters in the key game against Paraguay. And once again they did not come out with praise, because all the applause went to Alexis, who was left out of the starting team due to a blow to the foot.
When the team lost two to one, ideas foundered and Berizzo’s continuity faltered, the wonder boy He made his entry in the second half (he had slight pain in his foot) and changed the fate of history. Quick, timely, talented, mischievous and with undisputed leadership, he reversed the result with a goal and a half, because the winner was an unspeakable mistake by goalkeeper Antony Silva after a corner service. Under an ovation, he faced the microphones again to ratify his doctrine, sending a subtle message to his colleagues: you have to correct the mistakes made, because otherwise he is not enough to get excited.
The new profile of the 10 of Chile is very marked. Alexis was always the unifying of the vanities of a group consumed by egos and divided by indiscipline. He lived in the shadow of the antagonistic leadership of Vidal and Bravo, and it seemed that after his opaque performances at Manchester United and Inter Milan, his influence would end up extinguishing, like that of the rest of his teammates, many of whom they are already retired. Before the lawsuit, he paid homage to Matías Fernández and Jorge Valdivia, two of the greatest talents to see the Chilean courts.
But in Marseille, Sánchez was reunited with his best version and took a breath to become a leader and emblem. Of what he intends to be a new generation, headed, of course, by himself, with the understanding that he can reach the 2026 World Cup without problems – he is a disciplined custodian of his physique.
The bet is big and ambitious. The new Alexis made his debut. With mustaches and the 10. And he keeps somewhere, the key to the trunk where he rests, at his own request, what was the golden generation that he now intends to replace.
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