Genuine all-rounders are rare in soccer. Second strikers, No. 10s, inverted wingers and holding midfielders; trequartistas, registas and liberos; positions are specific and players are bracketed by increasingly defined criteria. But some bespoke players do possess those multifaceted traits, like Arturo Vidal.
It’s what makes Bayern Munich’s acquisition of the Juventus midfielder one of the most intriguing captures of the summer to date. Vidal has long been linked with a move to clubs like Manchester United and Arsenal without much tangible materializing in terms of a transfer. But the Bavarians have been swift in concluding a deal since their interest was initially reported a week ago.
From the Germans’ perspective, it’s an exceptional signing. Vidal is a complete midfielder, probably the most well rounded in the game. For a reported fee of £28 million, the 28-year-old represents exceptional value for money and is capable of fulfilling a variety different duties in Pep Guardiola’s star-studded side.
The Chilean is primarily a vertical player, at his best disrupting play, surging forward and breaking the lines with a direct mindset. As such, it’s easy to brand Vidal as the natural replacement for Bastian Schweinsteiger in this Bayern squad.
Except, Vidal is an upgrade on the German skipper. Underpinning these effervescent qualities is a tenacity and industry that Schweinsteiger once had, but has lost gradually as injuries have taken their toll. By contrast, the Chilean, as was evident by the talismanic displays he turned in in Bianconeri colours late last season, is a player very much in his prime.
Vidal will certainly relish the high-octane pressing Guardiola commands of his players off the ball, as he has done in a similar manner at international level with Jorge Sampaoli’s Chile side. Nonetheless, initially, the La Roja star may not be a seamless match with the principles of the former Barcelona boss.
Guardiola is perceived as a staunchly principled coach and a man who builds his teams into meticulous passing machines. That’s not to say Vidal is not a fine distributor, but as aforementioned, his incision with the ball at his feet is not where his major strengths are.
But, provided he’s used in a manner comparable to his Juventus days, Vidal will add a desirable new dimension to the Bayern midfield. And the beauty of this bespoke player is that he can be stationed in a plethora of positions on the field.
In Turin, the intricacy of Andrea Pirlo and Claudio Marchisio provided magnificent foils for the more rumbustious make-ups of Vidal and Paul Pogba. With Xabi Alonso and Thiago Alcantara likely to support the Chilean in what’ll be a remarkable midfield trio at the Allianz Arena, the platform is there for Vidal to have a similarly destructive impact with his vibrant midfield play.
It was a drive which Bayern lacked at times last season. Although they coasted to another Bundesliga title, the perpetual fitness woes of Schweinsteiger left the Bavarians looking a little one-dimensional and far too lateral in the middle of the pitch. Vidal will ensure that changes and that’ll only enrich the German side’s chances of winning another Champions League title.
That must be the aim for Guardiola and his side this season. There’s no team in the Bundesliga that possess the quality to challenge Bayern in the league, but after falling short at the semi-final stage of the European Cup in his two seasons at the helm so far, the Catalan will be acutely aware he needs to go one better.
His signings illustrate he may be willing to try a different tact as well. Douglas Costa is an incisive winger who, like Vidal, is a primarily vertical in his playing style. Although these acquisitions do deviate somewhat from Pep’s well known tactical mantras, the fact he’s bringing them in points to a potential tactical compromise.
To have a chance of winning the Champions League, teams need to be adaptable. Granted, the Barcelona side assembled by Guardiola was mesmeric and immaculate, smothering teams with a bewitching brazen. But they were a fantasy team, a one off and gradually, the Catalan seems to be realizing that. The signing of Vidal is perhaps the biggest indicator yet.
Vidal will give Bayern a drive that was so scarce from central areas against Barcelona in the Champions League semi-finals last season. He will also add a steeliness that was unseen when Real Madrid tore through the Germans on the counter-attack in the same stage of the competition two seasons ago.
He may not be as flawless as Xavi Hernandez, nor boast the emotional ties to the Bayern faithful that made Schweinsteiger a deistic figure, but Vidal is the comprehensive operator this team has lacked in crucial matches against the best on the continent. And as the main zealous influence in what’s an otherwise scrupulously assembled XI, the Chile star could fast become a football force of nature.
Follow Matt on Twitter @MattJFootball
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