The Manchester City coach says the Chilean is perfectly suited to a central striking role but admits he could not use him in the same way during their time together at Camp Nou.
Pep Guardiola has praised Alexis Sanchez as a “class, class player” but suggested he may have failed to get the best out of the Chilean during their time together in Barcelona.
Alexis won four trophies during his two seasons with Guardiola at Barca and another two after the Catalan left the club in 2012, but joined Arsenal in 2014 after failing to really establish himself in La Liga and there is a sense he did not reach his potential at Camp Nou.
The Chile international has been one of Arsenal’s key men since he arrived in England and he will head to the Etihad Stadium for a reunion with Guardiola on Sunday having scored 12 league goals so far this season.
Guardiola believes his former player is perfectly suited to the central striking role he is now enjoying with the Gunners, but says he deserves more credit for his time at Barca as he was rarely given the chance to play there.
“I think Alexis played well at Udinese, with Chile, he played really good in Barcelona,” he said on Friday. “Normally when you play with Messi all the players are beside him and people think he [Alexis] was not at his level because Messi is the highlight. But he played good and helped us a lot.
“And I think the position he’s in now as a striker is perfect for him, suited perfectly to him. In Barcelona maybe I didn’t help him too much because he was playing wide, I like the wingers wide.
“He can do that but he’s more between the lines than to cross to the goal. Sometimes he played as striker, especially one game I remember against Chelsea in the Champions League semi-final.
“He’s a player who can play in several positions, left, right, he’s a fighter, [he has] spirit, he’s a character, he’s a winner, he’s a class, class player.
“I think now he’s playing really well, but at Barcelona, and with the national team, with Chile, he won two Copas America, so that shows how good a player he is.”