Man City target and Arsenal man Sanchez’s rise from abject poverty to superstardom

Whatever you think of Arsenal forward and Manchester City target Alexis Sanchez, there’s an incredible story behind the Chilean’s rise to becoming one of the world’s leading footballers.

Sanchez grew up in abject poverty, performing on the streets of Tocopilla – a mining town in rural Chile that’s name translates to Devil’s Corner – since the age of six.

These days, Sanchez is earning around £200,000 per week as an Arsenal player, and is set for a pay rise if he extends his stay in North London. He’s likely to earn an even chunkier weekly wage if he leaves for suitors like Premier League leaders Man City or Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain.

In an interview back in 2014 with The Sun on Sunday, Sanchez’s brother Humberto revealed the Chile striker’s astonishing journey from poverty to prosperity.

Humberto said: ‘Alexis had nothing when growing up. He had to fight for everything he has.

‘We were the poorest of the poor so Alexis had to earn money any way he could from a very young age.

‘He would wash cars for a few pence or perform somersaults for a handful of coins from onlookers. He was like a little gymnast, hurling himself all over the place.

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‘The neighbours would give him a few coins for entertaining them. Sometimes he was so hungry he would knock on neighbours’ doors and ask for bread. They would always give him what they had to spare. On occasions Alexis would box in the street for entertainment.’

With his mother, Martina, sisters Tamara and Marjorie, and brother Humberto, Sanchez lived in a single-storey house, held together by a combination of breeze blocks, wood and corrugated metal.

Martina was left to raise her four children by herself after Alexis’s father, a miner named Guillermo Soto, deserted them when Sanchez was just a toddler. Martina was forced to pick up any odd job she could, just to make ends meet and feed her children.

Sanchez’s release was to play football, barefoot in the muddy streets. Something he became rather good at.

Humberto added: ‘His poor background is what makes him so hungry to succeed on the pitch. He knows how lucky he is to be where he is and never forgets where he comes from.

‘If Alexis wasn’t a footballer he would be working in the mines like most men around here. It’s a very tough life for 300,000 pesos (£314) a month. Growing up around here Alexis had three options – mining, fishing or football.’

A diminutive but tough and energetic child, Sanchez was nicknamed ‘the Squirrel’ by his friends, before his sublime footballing talents caused a revision in his nickname. He’d later become known as ‘El Nino Maravilla’: in English, ‘the Wonder Kid’.

It was clear that Sanchez had something special when he began to play for the youth team at Club Arauco. Even though he was too poor to pay the fees, coach Alberto Toledo took him in anyway. Once, when he arrived late for a game with his team trailing 1-0, he came on and netted eight times.

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Even though he was playing for Barcelona by the time he was 22, Sanchez left Club Arauco for Cobreloa in Chile before leaving South America to join Udinese in Italy’s Serie A. Following two successful loan spells at Colo Colo and Argentina’s River Plate, Sanchez broke into Udinese’s first team. In 2011, he joined Barcelona, where his star continued to rise, but his finest form has arguably come at Arsenal, where he’s scored 57 goals in 114 Premier League games.

Sanchez has also given back to the underprivileged community of Tocopilla, giving out sweets and replica shirts at Christmases and donating £160,000 to help restore five small youth football pitches near where his modest family home was.

Sanchez’s desire to win and achieve greatness is there for all to see every time he sets foot on a football pitch. It’s little wonder when you consider the willpower and unwavering self belief required to escape the muddy streets of Tocopilla for the manicured turf of the world’s best football stadiums.

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