Van Gaal: I've tried to sign Arturo Vidal before

The Netherlands boss discussed the Chile midfielder, one of his side's Group B opponents, and admitted he had tried to acquire the player when he was at Bayer Leverkusen
RIO DE JANEIRO — Louis van Gaal says he made an attempt to sign Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal earlier in his career, as his Netherlands side prepares to face Chile in the group stage of the World Cup.

Vidal was courted by Van Gaal’s Bayern Munich as he made his name with Bundesliga rivals Bayer Leverkusen, before opting instead to join Juventus for 10.5 million euro in the summer of 2011.

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The 27-year-old has since established himself as one of the world’s most highly rated midfielders, being voted in the Serie A Team of the Season in each of the past two campaigns.

With world champion Spain widely tipped to top Group B, the June 23 clash between Netherlands and Chile could prove crucial in deciding who makes the World Cup knockout stages.

And while Van Gaal insisted that Jorge Sampaoli’s men possess several talented players, he reserved special praise for Vidal, who returned from a knee injury in Chile's 2-0 friendly win over Northern Ireland.

"Chile have very dangerous players,” he told reporters. "I always wanted to buy Vidal when he was at Bayer Leverkusen but he went to Juventus.

"I like a lot of Chile players and they always play an attacking style. It will be difficult for the Netherlands but we have confidence in the three games we have to play.”

Van Gaal addressed the media after a light Oranje training session at Flamengo’s Estadio Gavea training complex on Friday.

Robin van Persie played a full part, and Van Gaal remains optimistic about the striker’s chances of shaking off the groin injury which saw him substituted at half-time of Wednesday’s friendly win over Wales.

"Van Persie has a groin injury but he can deal with it, so it looks ok,” he added. "I think he’s good. He trained with us but it was a light training session. We have to see tomorrow.”

Swansea City midfielder Jonathan de Guzman missed the Wales win with a hamstring injury and trained alone on Friday, but Van Gaal insists the 26-year-old’s recovery is ahead of schedule.

"De Guzman has an injury, but it’s going very well and he’ll be back sooner than everyone thought,” he said.

The incoming Manchester United manager also explained his decision to shift to a more cautious 5-3-2 formation in recent friendly matches.

"It’s because of Spain, because of the qualities of Spain, and mostly because of the attacking qualities,” Van Gaal said. "We want to make the space narrow, so that’s the reason.”