Defender | Tottenham Hotspur | Colombia
A raging bull of a centre-back, as powerful as he is quick and everything Eric Bailly was meant to be. The Manchester United comparison is fitting as well, because back in 2017 Jose Mourinho gloated to reporters that he’d instructed his side to funnel the ball away from Mattias De Ligt and onto Sanchez in the Europa League final, believing the Colombian was technically ill-equipped to build Ajax attacks from the back.
But throughout 18 months at Tottenham, Sanchez has proved himself to be not only physically imperious and defensively astute, but also pretty tidy in possession. He’s seemingly as comfortable in a back four as a back three, and while he may lack the cross-field range of Toby Alderweireld, the 6 foot 2 defender’s passing game is economical, effective and reliable.
For a 22-year-old, that’s quite an array of qualities, an array which renders Sanchez one of the best young centre-backs in Europe right now. All he’s really lacking is the experience and consistency over several years to make him an unequivocal top-level defender.
2018 has been…
In short, a storming success. Mauricio Pochettino never showed any hesitation in making Sanchez a starting XI regular from the moment he arrived at Tottenham but by the time 2018 came around, the prodigious centre-half had taken advantage of Alderweireld’s long-term injury and doubts over the Belgium international’s future to establish himself as a near-permanence alongside Jan Vertonghen.
Throughout the calendar year, Sanchez has lost just four times in the Premier League from 27 games, keeping 12 clean sheets.
Not that his impressive form throughout 2018 was limited to the Premier League or even club football. Partnered with the similarly domineering Yerry Mina, Colombia conceded just three goals in four games at the World Cup, eventually succumbing to England’s historic penalty shootout win in the Knockout Rounds. In total, ten of Sanchez’s 17 caps for Colombia came in 2018, typifying how he’s become an increasingly crucial player for the national side.
If there’s a few gripes to aim at Sanchez, it’s that his scoring form for Ajax (six in 32 throughout the 2016/17 Eredivisie) is yet to materialise in English football, and that he’s yet to actually win anything in terms of silverware. But you can’t blame the eternal supply of Spurs-ups on one kid from Caloto.
With Alderwerield back in Pochettino’s good books, or at least his not-so-bad books, Vertonghen returning from injury and youngster Juan Foyth recently earning his Premier League debut, the big test is whether Sanchez can stay in the starting XI or soon finds himself drifting towards the wider layers of the squad. But Pochettino clearly values the stocky centre-back highly and Tottenham want to become a team capable of competing on all fronts, so there will certainly still be opportunities to further impress throughout 2019. It’s just a matter of Sanchez continuing to take them.
A - A brilliant year in which he’s become an important player for club and a key one for country