FEATURE | Why Arturo Vidal is an upgrade on Paulinho & why he’s not Andreas Iniesta’s replacement

When Arturo Vidal signed for Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich, it raised a few eyebrows. A combative runner, he wasn’t what people perceived as a ‘Guardiola midfielder’. Sure enough, there were questions asked of his performances during Guardiola’s reign, but Carlo Ancelotti brought out the best in him.

He has played more matches in his three-year spell at Bayern than in his four-year spell at Juventus, where he made his name. Contributing in 29 goals and 30 assists in the Bundesliga, which combined are two more than his return at Juventus, winning three Bundesliga titles and one DfB Pokal; one can say that his move to Bayern under three coaches was a success.

But there is huge competition in Bayern’s midfield and provided new coach Niko Kovac goes with a three-man midfield, there are nine top players who will compete for three playing spots. That is clearly an overstuffed midfield, which can be a root for discontent and disharmony. Techincal Director Sejad Salihamidzic views it as “the club’s duty to provide the coach with a squad that does not contain pre-programmed discontent.” Vidal would probably get Bayern the last chance of a decent fee right now and he himself wouldn’t mind another top challenge at a top club.

Which means due to his age and despite Kovac liking him, Vidal became dispensable in Munich.

If Bayern signing Vidal in 2015 raised eyebrows, then his move to Barcelona surprises people even more. The Catalan giants are famous for their possession-based,‘tiki-taka’ passing system. However, they have deviated from that since Luis Enrique, and current manager Ernesto Valverde’s use and like of Paulinho last year proved that he isn’t very keen on returning to that style any soon.

Paulinho’s loan back to China against Valverde’s wishes opened up a squad spot for a central midfielder, along with the departure of Andres Iniesta. Arthur arrived, and many names were linked including Adrien Rabiot, Frenkie De Jong, Miralem Pjanic, and Vidal’s fellow Bayern teammate and La Masia graduate, Thiago.

Barcelona fans were very keen on De Jong and Miralem Pjanic, but the majority wanted Thiago back at the club. While Pjanic is in his prime and De Jong looks like a top prospect, Barcelona seem to have decided upon Vidal, which seems like a message of backing to Valverde. It makes sense, as the Chilean would provide a lot of tremendous attributes which can supplement Barcelona’s midfield. He provides a welcome defensive help to Sergio Busquets, with his running and ball winning. He can help Rakitic play more freely, thus potentially elevating Barcelona’s midfield score up by a couple of notches.

He also provides valuable aerial strength, an area where Barcelona need all the help they can get. He is actually decent on the ball and is capable of late runs into the box which can help the team with a few goals. While not as brilliant at vision as Iniesta, Vidal can still pick a pass and provide assists. Vidal, known for his fiery temperament can provide a ‘warrior like’ element to Barcelona.

Moreover, Vidal is heavily experienced at the top level, and his leadership skills are well known. A reason the Barcelona hierarchy has picked him could be that he could mentor the young Arthur, and give him an incubation period at the club before a swift transition between the two South Americans takes place.

For Barcelona, replacing Iniesta was always going to be a mammoth task, but Arturo Vidal is not his replacement. He is the first step to a remodelling of the Barca way, as they try to transition from an era of two generational greats.

By Vishvaraj Chauhan.



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