Will he stay or will he go? The curious case of Alexis Sanchez continues to drag on despite Arsenal’s season being just two short weeks away from completion.
The Chilean’s contractual status at the Emirates Stadium is known by everyone and anyone with even the slightest interest in the Premier League – he’s a free agent at the end of 2017-18 and could walk away from the Gunners without incurring a transfer fee.
It’s an uncertain time for fans, who have come to rely on the former Barcelona forward for glimpses of hope amid a dreary season which might well end with an FA Cup triumph but most likely a failure to finish inside the top four for the first time in two decades.
So what is there that could tempt Sanchez to remain where he is?
Barring a total implosion from either Liverpool or Manchester City, he will not get the chance to operate on Europe’s highest stage – the Champions League – next term.
For most superstars in their prime, and at the age of 28 Sanchez is certainly one, a place at the top table is essential.
The Europa League simply won’t cut it. The prestige isn’t there. A Thursday early-evening kick-off in Bucharest is so inferior to headline billing at the Bernabeu as to be rendered obsolete.
It would take some persuasion for an act of Sanchez’s stature to be satisfied at leading the line for a second-tier team.
Manchester United convinced Zlatan Ibrahimovic, of course, but that was helped by astronomical wages and, as we’ve found in recent days, extraordinary goal bonuses of upwards of £100,000.
Could Sanchez be influenced by money alone? There is talk of making him the best-paid player in the Premier League. But do yet more riches really make that much of a difference?
Geographically, he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in England. After all, Sanchez turned down the chance to move to Liverpool three years ago despite a deal being struck with Barcelona.
The reason? London was calling him. The lifestyle of a cultural melting pot worked for him.
So if he were to leave Arsenal and stay in the Premier League, only one other club would be in the race.
With Eden Hazard linked heavily with Real Madrid, the pursuit of Sanchez makes sense for the Blues – a skilful, hard-running, goalscoring frontman who can be relied upon at crucial times.
Unlike Tottenham, whose wage structure remains rigid for good reason, Chelsea could afford the Chilean and offer him the starring role he craves. And a coach with whom he can identify.
Much was made earlier this season, of course, of a supposed bust-up between Sanchez and Arsene Wenger and the fact the pair took part in a very scripted handshake on the training ground during the same period only added fuel to the flames.
There’s no doubting Sanchez’s work ethic, his talent or goals return – he is the first Arsenal player since Robin van Persie to score 20 Premier League goals in a season.
But that is not all that he seems to share in common with Van Persie.
The last time the Dutchman hit the 20 mark in a campaign, it was during his final term at the Emirates. Like Sanchez, he had at times dragged Arsenal through a meandering, meaningless season. Like Sanchez, his contract was running down and his future became the subject of immense speculation.
Like Sanchez, he was the stand-out asset.
And he was still allowed to join a Premier League rival. Who’d bet against history repeating itself again this summer?