My heart hurts.
To paraphrase Selena Gomez, “I love you like a love song, Davy.” It was only a year, but what a special year it was. Your stunning athleticism, remarkable pace, enchanting dance moves, commanding presence and thumping headers make it hard to say goodbye. Red and white suited you, #5. You solidified our defence, formed a mouth-watering partnership with Matthijs de Ligt, brought us to a European final, won over my heart with your captivating smile and, most importantly, gave me reason to believe – to believe in the future, believe in loyalty, and believe world class defending is not a thing of the past. You reinvigorated my passion, and now you are leaving.
But you must know, I am not blaming you. This is not your fault. Champions League football has eluded us once again, and Marc Overmars has shown no ambition to take us to the next level – he’s never received a transfer offer he didn’t like. Next time you come to the ArenA, you will find your locker cleaned out and nametag replaced. You are nothing but a memory, but I will never forget you – never forget our year together. I will always remember the good times, and there were a lot of them. This is a letter I hoped I would never have to write.
You came, you danced, and now you have to leave. You brought great pride to Amsterdam, but I am forced to say goodbye. I wish there was another way. Bedankt. Tot ziens. Veel succes.
Davinson Sanchez arrived in Amsterdam for five-million Euros last summer, shortly before winning the Copa Libertadores with Colombian outfit Atletico Nacional – just the second in club history – and now he departs for around eight times the fee paid by Overmars. There’s no denying it’s a terrific return on their investment. A sale in the region of 45-million Euros (including add-ons) is an Ajax and Eredivisie record, surpassing the 34 million Manchester United spent to buy Memphis Depay. It’s a higher fee than was paid for the likes of Ruud van Nistelrooy, Wesley Sneijder, Klaas-jan Huntelaar, Luis Suarez, Arjen Robben, Dirk Kuyt, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Christian Eriksen and so many others. So why do Ajax supporters feel their club has been swindled? Watch him play and the answer will be obvious. They unearthed a star.
A physical specimen, he is virtually unbeatable in the air, as evidenced by the six goals he scored in his first – and only – Eredivisie season, tied for the league lead amongst defenders with PSV’s Hector Moreno, bought by Roma earlier this summer. Sanchez started 32 of 34 Eredivisie matches last term, missing only their first game due to the timing of his arrival, and their penultimate league clash as he was rested for a midweek European tie. Speaking of the Europa League, he played a crucial role in guiding Ajax to their first European final since 1996, playing every minute of the knockout stage (minus one match missed due to suspension), helping them to three clean sheets.
RT @ajaxdailydotcom: Golazo Sanchez! #ajaaz pic.twitter.com/mSrepyAvYF
— Ajax Life (@ajaxlife) 5 april 2017
Sanchez completed just under 90 per cent of his passes last season (88.9), the third-best mark in the Eredivisie, and his average of 70.9 completed passes per match is better than that of any Tottenham centre-half last season – and it’s not just the competition he was up against. In the Europa League, many of Sanchez’s numbers saw drastic increases. His total tackles per match almost doubled, and his average completed dribbles, interceptions and key passes were higher.
Of course, numbers do not tell the whole story, of course. The Colombian centre-half is a stalwart in defence. Built like a mountain, Sanchez has every tool to become a world class defender. Those who have watched him over the course of the last year might argue he’s already flirting with the label. At the ripe age of 21, he plays well beyond his years. Aggressive in his approach, Sanchez mimics a concrete wall in the centre of defence and has become famous for the impeccable timing of his last-ditch challenges.
Sanchez to the rescue! (Nice one, Joel..) #ajaher pic.twitter.com/Gl7Uooe3ob
— AjaxDaily (@ajaxdailydotcom) 26 februari 2017
He is a ferocious footballer, blending a unique combination of power and grace. He makes a hobby of bullying opposing attackers and possesses impressive skill on the ball, a claim which can only be made by a small percentage of centre-backs in the game today. Comfortable as the last line of defence, Sanchez has also been known to embark on mesmerising runs into attack, reminiscent of Italian legend Alessandro Nesta on occasion, and has the athletic ability to recover his position. His darting forays through midfield help to alleviate congestion, drive play forward and disrupt the opposition’s shape.
A former defensive midfielder, Sanchez is incredibly comfortable in his distribution. Be it deep in his own end or up inside the halfway line, he thrives in picking out a pass, and has shown an innate ability to kick-start quick attacks with precise balls over the top.
Sanchez is a five-tool defender who is well on his way to becoming one of the best at his position: physicality, tackling, aerial ability, reading of the game and ball skills. High, but deserved, praise for the 21-year-old who, in his first taste of European football in 2016/17, guided Ajax to the Europa League final en route to winning the Rinus Michels award as their player of the season – just the second to win the award in their first season with the club, along with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar in 2006.
RT @ajaxdailydotcom: ? Sensational from Sanchez! #AJAXOGCN #ogcnice #ajax
nice #Nice06 pic.twitter.com/RX9S868594
— NiceRendezVous ?? (@actualites_nrv) 2 augustus 2017
At White Hart Lane, Sanchez should slot right into the centre of defence. He has limited versatility, and while Mauricio Pochettino could experiment with him at right-back, it would not be in anyone’s best interests to remove him from the role he has exceedingly flourished in.
The future of Danny Rose is in flux and Kyle Walker is off to Manchester City, leaving some holes in the back line. For the sake of argument, assuming Danny Rose stays in north London, he will reclaim his starting spot ahead of Ben Davies, eliminating the option for Jan Vertonghen to move over to the left. Kyle Walker-Peters has made a strong claim to be regularly involved in the side following his man-of-the-match performance against Newcastle, though it would be entirely possible that Toby Alderweireld could slide over to right-back, to make room for Davinson Sanchez, who could then partner Vertonghen in the centre.
The best option, however, would be to adopt the 3-4-2-1 that Pochettino dabbled in last season. In their 10 matches with a three-man back line, Spurs went unbeaten, winning eight. That would ensure Sanchez, Vertonghen and Alderweireld remain in their natural position – a formidable back line that could arguably be considered one of the best in Europe. Whatever Tottenham’s plans for him are, Sanchez will play first-team minutes at the Lane, and it could be just a matter of a year or two until Barcelona swoop in to steal him away. The Blaugrana have been tracking him for a couple of years now, and tried hard to lure him over to Camp Nou in summer 2016, but lost out as Sanchez wanted to be a regular starter. You can see why. One year later and the Colombian has earned himself a major payday.
Danny Rose, if you have to Google him, you don’t watch enough football.