Why Barcelona have gambled €20m on injury-prone warrior Arturo Vidal

Eric Abidal, Jordi Mestre, Arturo Vidal
The arrival of the injury-prone Chilean has divided the critics but, if he can stay fit, Barca have bagged themselves a world-class midfielder

Criticism has flown in for Barcelona on many levels in the wake of their signing of Bayern Munich’s Arturo Vidal. Some of it justified, some of it not.

Conducting themselves in a poor manner yet again in this deal by snatching the Chilean star from right under the noses of Inter, just as they did to Roma with the Malcom transfer, induced negativity from the off. Indeed, this mode of operation has shone the spotlight on the ungentlemanly fashion of their current business, with their practices irking other clubs and damaging their revered brand.

Moreover, paying €20 million (£18m/£23m) for a 31-year-old who has just recovered from a four-month injury layoff and is not your typical Barca style of midfielder has offered further reason for skepticism. Forced to miss 15 games through injury last campaign for Bayern, his body’s durability was called into question, as his gruelling schedule over the last five years for club and country could now be catching up with him.

However, having overseen the success of the now departed Paulinho last term, coach Ernesto Valverde had his heart set on bringing in a direct replacement for the Brazilian. Vidal is precisely that and more, with his skill-set more complete and refined than the now Guangzhou Evergrande man.

Commenting on the transfer, Valverde was quick to jump on the defensive to explain the reasoning behind the purchase, asserting: "Vidal is someone we hope can add energy in midfield. We know he has a lot of experience. The amount of games he's played for his previous teams is very good. He has a big presence and he doesn't disappear on the pitch. He has the aspect of a warrior.

"It's the same as with Paulinho [last summer]. He has a different profile to what we already have, which is important. There was lots of controversy over the Paulinho deal last year and lots of criticism before he played one minute - and then he was a really good player for us. At a club like ours, there's room for everything, for all types of players. Some may appear not to fit at first, but we're trying to enrich our team [with different profiles]."

Having worked with some of the finest managers in the world including Jorge Sampaoli, Pep Guardiola, Carlo Ancelotti, Jupp Heynckes, Massimiliano Allegri and Antonio Conte, the knowledgeable and fiercely determined Vidal will back himself to succeed at his new club. “It is a dream," he stated at his unveiling. "I hope to achieve my objectives. I am here to win all the trophies available and I will give everything on the pitch to achieve this."

After all, on his day and when fully fit, he's right up there with the best central midfielders in Europe. So in terms of what he brings to the team on the field, there's much to get excited about.

Arturo Vidal

Defensively, his intensity, aggression and whole-hearted approach sees him make life extremely difficult for opponents, while also setting the tone brilliantly for his teammates to follow.

A super presser, who compliments his relentless pestering by astutely angling and directing his harrying efforts, he'll have little issue adhering to Valverde's demands here. In addition, the way he physically imposes himself on his adversaries via his tackling, roughness and bravery makes him a rather intimidating man to face off with.

Cartoon Vidal vs Vidal

Meanwhile, on the offensive end, he supplements the aforementioned neatly, for the two footed midfielder is accomplished in possession and usually executes his decisions with clarity and conviction. Capable of hitting incisive line-breaking passes, switching the angle of attack effectively, partaking in slick combination play and unleashing well-weighted through balls, he should have the tools required to integrate reasonably smoothly into Barca's style.

Although prone to the odd error in his distribution, the two-time Copa America winner's passing stats from the Bundesliga last season illustrate his quality on the ball. Among midfielders who started 15 matches or more, he finished the campaign with the 10th highest overall pass competition rate (90.7%), was fifth for long ball completions (79.8%) and seventh for most accurate forward passes (84.5%).

Arturo Vidal, Bayern Munich

Another major attacking upside comes from his penetrative forward runs into the box from deep that he directs so expertly to put himself into advantageous positions while also causing structural issues for the opposition in regards to who should pick him up. He is just six strikes shy of 100 goals in his club career – also hitting the net 24 times in 100 Chile appearances – an excellent return given his primary functions on the field.

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A powerful shooter, who also identifies vacant spaces shrewdly and works tirelessly to provide teammates with passing outlets, Vidal is also a real weapon in aerial confrontations and he will undoubtedly add an extra layer of menace for Barca.

Set to contribute significantly on both sides of the ball - if he hits the ground running - Vidal can be the perfect box to box midfielder for Barca, complementing the more motionless yet tactical Sergio Busquets and the more classically creative Ivan Rakitic or Philippe Coutinho.

While there's obviously risk attached to the acquisition of the seasoned, battle-hardened Vidal, there's still plenty for Barca fans to be enthusiastic about.
If he can stay fit, the Chilean can have a tremendous influence on the 2017-18 La Liga champions.