Football Monopoly looks at the partnerships that define some of world football’s most talked-about teams, both the on-form and the out-of-shape. Using the board game Monopoly as a model, we assign players to a property set based on their current form and discuss their short- and long-term prospects. Grab the dice and give ‘em a roll, but remember—this is a game of strategy! Just like chess, you’ll be thinking several turns ahead…
On your first turn, you roll a five and land on Monopoly’s most valuable property set: Blue.
Properties: Antonio Di Natale & Alexis Sanchez
Description: Serie A darlings Udinese Calcio are making an unlikely push for a top-four finish this season. Francesco Guidolin’s men currently sit two points clear of fifth-place Lazio with seven fixtures remaining, and while Sunday’s 2-0 loss to bottom-dwellers Lecce may have dashed any hope for the club’s first-ever scudetto, the boys from Udine will have their hearts set on European qualification. Arguably the most exciting side on the peninsula in 2011, the Bianconeri have produced some impressive results in recent months, including a 3-1 thrashing of holders Inter Milan.
The heart of Udinese’s success is Guidolin’s attack-minded 3-5-2 formation, which has produced a league-leading 56 goals so far this term. The system hinges on the strike rate of the team’s star forwards, journeyman striker Antonio Di Natale and Chilean wunderkind Alexis Sanchez.
Evaluation: Di Natale and Sanchez know how to punish their opponents. Just ask Palermo, who allowed the pair seven goals in their February fixture. With a supporting cast of midfielders (Asamoah, Inler, and Pinzi provide service from the middle third) and wingers (Isla and Amero stretch the defense with darting runs to the corner), Udinese’s front two have much freedom to move around the opposition’s half and utilize space to create chances. The Italian and Chilean complement each other quite well in attack. The former plays as an out-and-out striker, while the latter operates ahead of the midfield, using his skill on the ball to navigate into the box. The system has been a revelation in a stereotypically defensive Italian league. Since the club’s season-opening four-loss streak, Di Natale and Sanchez have combined for an astonishing 36 goals, more than Milan’s tridente of Ibrahimovic, Robinho, and Pato.
Enjoy the dazzling partnership while it’s around – it probably won’t last beyond this season.
Sanchez is almost certain to be sold this summer. Manchester City and Inter Milan are keen on securing the 22-year old’s services, and with a transfer fee in the area of 30 million Euros being mooted, both clubs may feel inclined to meet that valuation. Udinese, after all, is an infamous selling club (Vincenzo Iaquinta, Fabio Quagliarella, Marek Jankulovski, and Sulley Muntari have all sported the black and white stripes in recent years), and owner Giampaolo Pozzo won’t hesitate to offload Sanchez if the figure is right.
Di Natale will turn 34 in October, and while his blistering pace and keen eye for goal have hardly diminished this season, he may be playing twilight football. It seems at this point a foregone conclusion that he’ll finish top scorer in Serie A for the second year on the trot, but whether he can reproduce that form next season—and whether he can do it without Sanchez—remains to be seen.
Conclusion: The Zebrette duo may be the most exciting strike force in Europe at the moment, but their prolific run won’t last forever. Purchasing blue may be a wise short-term investment, but holding onto the properties for more than a couple of turns becomes a significant risk. Look to trade away for a profit.