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Felicevich the villain? How Alexis loyalty led to Man Utd trumping Man City

COMMENT: They deserve eachother, right? Alexis Sanchez, Manchester United and that 500,000 quid-a-week salary. It's not about ambition. Football. This move is just about money and greed, right...?

... after all, why else would Alexis be choosing United over Manchester City? The champions-elect. With Pep Guardiola at the helm. Six months ago he was ready to sign on the dotted line. So why not now? Clearly the answer is cash...

Well, not quite. Alexis' decision - and it is his decision - is influenced by what United have put in front of him. There's no getting away from that. But this move from Arsenal is also about ambition - and loyalty.

Why Guardiola and City aren't welcoming Alexis to the Etihad Campus this week is down to one man: Fernando Felicevich - Alexis' agent. And the great irony is, if it was up to him, the Chilean would be packing his bags for the Sky Blues.

This week, Felicevich is getting it in the neck. It's the Argentine who has steered Alexis towards United, apparently. It's he who will collect the massive payday. He's the corrupter in this whole affair.

Rubbish.

Felicevich's clients never deviate from the career path he maps out for them. Correct. And it was United, not City, which were willing to pay him a hefty £5m broker's fee. Also correct.

But like everything in football. This isn't black and white. And as much as Felicevich is among the most powerful agents in the game, the decision to place Alexis at United has been driven by the player.

As mentioned, if Felicevich had his way, Alexis would be playing out the season with Arsenal - and running down his contract in the process. That was his recommendation before Christmas. Alexis would be in full control of his next move and as a free agent would stand to make actually more from signing on fees than what he will get departing for United this month. It was a move that also suited City, with pressure being exerted from the moaners inside the ECA (European Club Association) that UEFA take another look at how they're skirting the Financial Fair Play laws.

But Alexis wanted out now. He'd lost all faith in Arsene Wenger's 'project' and many of his teammates. Yes, he could go through the motions for another six months and write his own cheque. But he'd had it. Enough was enough. This was the message to Felicevich - and it was perhaps the most difficult conversation the pair had held over their 16 year friendship. So much so, that rock solid sources in Santiago say things could've gone south very quickly if not for Felicevich backing down. He'd never been defied by a client before. For those he manages, what he says generally goes. But Alexis was (or still is) desperate to get away. A deal had to be done for January.

Now what's skipped over by Felicevich's critics is the fact that all this advice and background work is done free of charge. There's no ongoing percentage of a player's contract to cover expenses. No hourly rate for advice or legal work. No matter the player, no matter the profile, he wants his clients to feel they can pick up the phone at any time and talk things over with him. Felicevich only makes his money from negotiating transfers. City's directors will have known that.

Alexis is the jewel of Felicevich's stable. But the relationship runs deeper than simply player and agent.

Alexis, as he was coming through with little Cobreloa, signed with Felicevich as a 16 year-old. And he, or better it be said his mother, was taking as much a chance on this little known Argentine than Felicevich was on him. Now regarded among the most influential men in the game, Felicevich was still learning the ropes when he was recommended to a teenage Alexis by one his Cobreloa clients. But a friendship was quickly forged, not just with the player, but his family. Felicevich would even help Alexis' mother with house hold bills when needed in the early days of her son's career.

And as word came from Felicevich that Alexis would move in January, this is what City were facing over Christmas. And for all the support they're now getting in press, it can be argued they fumbled it. In the era of Mino Raiola, Jorge Mendes and £40m agents' fees, their refusal to cough up to Felicevich went a long way to pushing Alexis towards United and Jose Mourinho. The Chilean wasn't going to see his friend out of pocket.

The £5m aside, Felicevich is delighted to be back on terms with United. It was he who introduced the club to their first Chilean - Angelo Henriquez. That was six years ago. Still only 23, Henriquez is now in Mexico playing for Atlas - and still on Felicevich's books. Before then, United's only flirtation with Chilean footballers was Dante Poli, the former U20 international defender who played for Sir Alex Ferguson in the 1997/98 preseason. Poli is now a well known pundit in his homeland. When it comes to El Nino Maravilla de Chile, Mourinho will be hoping it's third time lucky.

We can all argue about the morality of money in football. Agents' fees. Player wages. The lot. But this is about the practical side of things. City, for whatever reason, could not see themselves taking care of Alexis' agent of 16 years. United could. And after their row over the phone before Christmas, Alexis knew what had to be done for his long time friend.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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