Arturo Vidal was a rather surprise acquisition by Barcelona. But, can he be an ideal fit at Camp Nou? The Hard Tackle makes a close inspection.
On August 4, 2018, Barcelona announced an agreement in place with Bayern Munich over the transfer of Arturo Vidal and it is fair to say that the news of the transfer was been met with polarizing opinions.
While some Twitteratis praised the shrewd piece of business done by the Barcelona management and the addition of a world class midfielder to the squad, there were also those who were quick to criticize the transfer on the grounds that Vidal was 31, past his prime and did not possess the profile of a typical Barcelona midfielder.
Ever since Paulinho was sold back to Guangzhou Evergrande, there were rumours in the Catalan media that a player of a similar profile would be brought in at the request of Ernesto Valverde. At a reported fee of €18 million instead of the €40 million the club had spent on Paulinho last summer, Barcelona have made an upgrade both in monetary and sporting terms in Vidal.
Arturo Vidal is one of the finest box-to-box midfielders in the world and is simply put, the best at what he does. Fierce tackling, retrieving and recycling possession, providing defensive cover, physicality and aggression, opening up spaces for his teammates, vision on long passes and a significant goal threat as an extra man in the box, in addition to a potent shot from distance, the player indeed has a fine mix of abilities.
His footballing attributes aside, Vidal has a strong mentality and shows tremendous character on the pitch. When being presented to the Camp Nou press box, Vidal said that if needed, he will give his life out on the pitch.
Rewatch the lacklustre performance of Barcelona against AS Roma in the second leg of the Champions League quarter-finals last season, where they threw away a three-goal lead and you’d be convinced that they could do with the presence of someone like Vidal on the pitch.
After all, there was a good reason that Juventus fans took to calling him ‘Il Guerreiro‘ (The Warrior) affectionately. Vidal is a player that likes sinking his teeth deep into the opposition’s skin.
And yet despite these faculties, there’s a section of football fans that is displeased with the signing due to the fact that Vidal is too old and injury prone while also “not having the Barcelona DNA”. Most of the criticism though, is baseless within the context of the signing.
Vidal is 31 and has signed a three-year contract which means he won’t hamper the development and integration process of young and upcoming crop of talented Barcelona midfielders like Arthur, Carles Alena, Riqui Puig, Monchu and Oriol Busquets.
He was also purchased for a meager amount, a price that can be considered as peanuts in today’s inflated market and thus, the investment does not hold any significant risk factor.
While fingers are being pointed that the purchase of Vidal instead of fan favourite and La Masia product Thiago is yet another step in the direction of the change in the philosophy at Barcelona, the Barcelona fans must remind themselves that there are a lot of different interpretations when it comes to this controversial and long debated issue.
To begin with, Paulinho’s performances last season has left fans under the impression that Vidal could be of a similar mould. All muscle, power, a major threat in the box, albeit without much of a technique.
While that could not be further from the truth, Barcelona fans must also remember that the Brazilian has been much more of a success in a single season than the other midfield signings since the departure of Xavi, namely, Arda Turan, Andre Gomes and Denis Suarez have had in multiple seasons.
Vidal, on the other hand, is a significant improvement over Paulinho. He is technically much more skillful, more flexible tactically and has played under some of the best managers in the game like Marcelo Bielsa, Pep Guardiola and Antonio Conte.
The apprehension that the signing of Vidal is a departure from the club’s philosophy is also a misconstrued narrative. Over the last two decades, Barcelona have had Edgar Davids, Mark van Bommel, Yaya Toure, Seydou Keita in their ranks – players of similar profile, players who were successful and endeared themselves to the fans.
Compared to the shambolic transfer window Barcelona had last summer, this one has acted like a breath of fresh air and has allowed them to construct a world class squad that is capable of competing on all fronts. The Blaugrana actually have strong depth on the bench in personnel that will allow them quality and flexibility- key factors they lacked in recent seasons.
Ernesto Valverde can utilise Vidal in various positions depending upon the game, the opposition and the style he chooses to employ.
If he plays the pragmatic 4-4-2 like last season, Vidal will most likely be employed in the role Ivan Rakitic played, a responsibility he is capable of justifying even better where he will be asked to do the dirty work which will free up Sergio Busquets to play his natural game and act as a smooth transition between attack and defence, breaking lines and linking up with Lionel Messi.
A similar role is played by Casemiro in the Real Madrid midfield where he acts as a destroyer and frees up Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, a midfield basis that has allowed them to win three consecutive Champions League titles.
Vidal can also be employed as a sole midfielder behind Rakitic, Philippe Coutinho and Arthur where he could allow Busquets some rest over the course of the season. The Chilean is also a threat from set pieces and has a powerful shot, options that will help Barcelona unlock stubborn and deep lying defences.
While it is true that Vidal is not the typical midfielder that Barcelona have been yearning for ever since Xavi left, it is also true that the signing of Arthur from Gremio addresses those issues and the Chilean provides advantages on and off that any world class squad and especially Barcelona need right now to compete for the third treble. He personifies the winner’s mentality that will help Barcelona end its Champions league drought.