Munich – With the 2015/16 Bundesliga season just around the corner, we figured it prime time to take a closer look at some of the German top flight's most talked about summer signings.
FC Bayern München may have won the Bundesliga title for the last three consecutive seasons, yet so far success on the European stage has eluded coach Pep Guardiola in his two years in the Bavarian capital. Being eliminated at the semi-final stage of last term’s UEFA Champions League cut deep, and prompted the strategist to search for reinforcements, namely Arturo Vidal.
Bastian Schweinsteiger was allowed to leave, but given that Bayern’s midfield already comprises Xabi Alonso, Thiago, Javi Martinez, Philipp Lahm, David Alaba, Mario Götze, Sebastian Rode and Thomas Müller, not to mention young hopefuls Pierre-Emile Höjbjerg, Gianluca Gaudino and Joshua Kimmich, where will Vidal fit in? And what can he offer that others can’t?
The answer is surprisingly simple. The Chilean, who won the Copa America in his homeland this summer, is a box-to-box player and therefore unique in the Bayern squad. At 28 years old, Vidal is at his peak and is widely regarded as one of the finest players in the world game. Last season he won the domestic double in Italy, and played in the Champions League final, which Juventus lost to Barcelona. In his four years in Turin, Vidal scored 48 goals and provided 26 assists in 171 competitive games; an astonishing return for a player who is ostensibly a defensive midfielder.
Yet in recruiting Vidal, Guardiola and sporting director Matthias Sammer looked beyond mere statistics, impressive as they are. They saw his raw power, dynamism, aggression and will to win, combined with excellent technique, vision, passing and goal threat. Bayern have lacked a player of that ilk, especially in big games. “He’ll be good for us,” said Sammer. “He’s a winner.”
Furthermore, Vidal fits the Guardiola mould of being able to play in a number of positions: he can line-up as a sole midfield anchor or in tandem with another player, can play further forward or event as full-back. “Arturo doesn’t only focus on defensive duties,” said treble-winning former Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes, who trained Vidal when the two coincided at Bayer 04 Leverkusen between 2009 and 2011. “He can get things going in attack too. There aren’t many players who can do that.”
Missing puzzle piece
Last season Guardiola favoured Lahm and Alonso in the defensive midfield roles in a 4-3-3 formation, so Vidal could initially be asked to play further forward alongside Thiago given that his speed, stamina and dynamism are fearsome weapons when pressing opponents high up the pitch.
Heynckes has already predicted that Vidal “will provide that balance that has been lacking” in Bayern’s midfield. Should he be proved right, Guardiola and Bayern will take some stopping in their relentless pursuit of silverware this season.