Neil Humphreys: Guardiola, not the money, is why Man City are so good
Unlike whiny rivals, Man City coach continues to improve players
Alexis Sanchez grew up so poor he performed street tricks for pocket change at the age of six.
In Chile, his family lived in a poverty-stricken town called Tocopilla. Locally, the place was known as The Devil's Corner.
Sanchez literally danced with the devil throughout childhood. He fought for everything, a self-made superstar in every sense.
So the idea that he'll eventually leave Arsenal for Manchester City for financial reasons is absurd. He'll leave to succeed. He'll leave to win. He'll leave for Pep Guardiola.
And that's the point that Guardiola's obtuse rivals continue to miss. It's not about the money, not entirely at least. It's about the Pep talks.
The City manager reaches parts of a player's potential other managers cannot reach.
From a six-year-old street urchin to a Chilean hero, Sanchez has always sought to improve his status and reach another level.
But the 29-year-old can no longer do that under Arsene Wenger. He's at risk of creative stagnation, which has occasionally afflicted teammate Mesut Oezil.
Both footballers are out of contract at the end of the season. Both would give anything to elevate their game under Guardiola's tutelage.
Wenger, Jose Mourinho and perhaps even Antonio Conte and Mauricio Pochettino to a certain extent should forget the financial gap and ponder the divide on the training ground.
Mourinho moaned about the money at Guardiola's disposal, but the Manchester United manager hasn't improved his personnel in a similarly startling fashion.
Despite spending £286 million (S$514m), Mourinho's most reliable options in defence are still the same faces who played in the Ferguson era.
His greatest strength has always been to take a dozen finished articles and slot them into a title-winning line-up for a season or two before the project implodes. But, in recent years, how many of Mourinho's most creative footballers actually improved on his watch?
Eden Hazard was only fully restored once Mourinho left Chelsea. While at United, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial are often dragged back to effectively double up as fullbacks. Mourinho's most exciting players can appear more lethargic than liberated.
But then, Wenger hasn't exactly had them jumping through hoops at Arsenal either.
A couple of fine performances from Jack Wilshere has the jingoistic British media trumpeting his return to the England fold for the World Cup.
PEP CRAVES PERFECTION
But the overnight hysteria overlooks the reality that Wilshere is the latest character in "the great British hope" narrative at Arsenal.
The Gunners unearthed Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott. How many reached a level of sustained, match-winning consistency to rival David Silva or Kevin de Bruyne at City? For that matter, how often has Oezil replicated his international form at Arsenal?
They are questions for the manager to answer.
At City, de Bruyne and Raheem Sterling's meteoric rise has been documented at length, even if a viral video of Guardiola working with Sterling on the training ground has met with eye-rolling from a few pundits.
Yes, it's basic "pass-and-move" stuff on the video, with Sterling receiving the ball "side on" to increase his spatial awareness.
But why didn't the winger lay the ball off quicker in the past?
It's the same reason he's already knocked in 17 goals - six more than he has managed in any previous campaign - and why he dribbles less but contributes more.
He's drilled mercilessly on the training ground. He works with a permanently dissatisfied manager, one who craves perfection.
Guardiola cried after winning six trophies out of six with Barcelona. He wept for there were no more worlds to conquer, at least temporarily.
Otherwise, in the finest of margins, there's always room for improvement, even among established maestros. Silva is 32 in about a week and enjoying his finest season in a City shirt.
Only Guardiola takes such a delightfully accomplished footballer and demands and cultivates something extra.
Xavi Hernandez has certainly noticed it. Speaking yesterday, the Barcelona legend recognised the similarities between Guardiola's former club and City.
Silva is almost playing Andres Iniesta to de Bruyne's Lionel Messi, an unlikely scenario at the start of season, thanks to their Spanish Svengali in a City tracksuit.
Despite City's huge spending, Silva was already at the club when Guardiola arrived. So was Sterling, de Bruyne, Fernandinho and even Nicolas Otamendi.
They've all improved under Guardiola and will be rewarded accordingly at the end of the season with all sorts of medals, accolades and records.
That's what Sanchez really wants. That's all he wants. The inflated salary is an afterthought.
City can sign the best not simply because they've got the most money in the bank, but because they've got the best man in the dugout.