Arturo Vidal is in the midst of a transfer dilemma: stay with Barcelona or leave in the middle of the season for a new club such as Inter Milan?
Arturo Vidal made his dream move to Barcelona in the summer of 2018 with two clear goals: win the Champions League and earn consistent playing time.
“It is a dream,” Vidal said at the time. “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.”
He signed a three-year contract with the club in hopes of completing these goals, but a year and a half into his Barcelona tenure Vidal may not fulfill either of the two objectives due to what could end up unraveling as an ugly divorce between player and club.
Rumors have run rampant in Spain and Italy over Vidal’s potential transfer to current Serie A contenders Inter Milan. According to Sky Sport’s Gianluca Di Marzio, Inter are aiming to complete an agreement with Barcelona for the Chilean midfielder.
Inter Milan Vice President and club legend Javier Zanetti recently confirmed the club’s ambition to sign Vidal:
“Vidal is a player with great character and experience, so we’ll see what happens. We are talking about a player who can certainly step us up a level, and we are already at a good level.”
The ongoing dilemma surrounding Vidal’s future with the Spanish club has not suddenly appeared. Instead, it has been a talking point that has been brewing for over a year.
As mentioned, Vidal signed with Barcelona to fulfill his long-awaited dream of winning the Champions League. But it was not his lone goal with the club; he also aimed to be an integral member of the starting unit. Unfortunately, it has not panned out the way he initially hoped.
Last season, Vidal expressed his frustration early on in the campaign at the lack of starts and overall playing time. Over the opening 10 fixtures of the 2018-19 La Liga season, Vidal made a mere two starts. This was not what the Chilean hoped for when he signed the three-year contract with the Blaugrana side.
To Vidal’s displeasure, last season’s frustrations have carried over into this campaign. The two-time Copa America champion has started in just four of Barcelona’s 19 league games this season, which is the lowest among the team’s first-team midfielders. And like last season, Vidal is not shying away from speaking publicly about now-former manager Ernesto Valverde’s team selections on a game-by-game basis.
“A lot of games have gone by where I haven’t played and this makes me sad,” Vidal told TV3 in November. “You have to be objective and live from day to day.”
The tipping point for Vidal — in what may lead to his departure — is what has recently transpired off the field. According to ESPN, Vidal reportedly stormed off a training session last month after finding out he was not slated to start against Real Madrid in the first El Clasico of the season. And a few weeks later, unrelated to the training session incident, Vidal sued the board over an unpaid $2.4 million bonus payment.
Amid the ongoing speculation surrounding his future, and despite some of his issues, Barcelona know they cannot lose a talent like Vidal during the middle of the season.
Sure, Vidal is carrying the baggage of numerous off-field clashes he has had with Barcelona’s board and coaching staff. Many may point to how many issues have arisen in his short time with the club and how he has handled them. It has not quite escalated to the point where it is creating a distraction for the club, but the consistent controversies are not what any manager would want at this point in the season. Especially considering everything else going on at Barcelona.
However, what Vidal brings to Barcelona cannot be easily replaced in today’s game, or in the current Blaugrana squad.
Many midfielders today prioritize on their own responsibilities rather than attempting to take on the role of a box-to-box midfielder. But Vidal is a one-of-a-kind talent. How many other midfielders in Europe are able to make an off-ball run in the final third and hustle downfield within seconds to complete a ball-winning challenge in the defensive third? A very select few have the capacity to complete such a game-changing sequence.
Vidal also complements Barca’s paying style with his constant movement and knack to get involved in the build-up of play.
When orchestrating play as a central attacking midfielder, Vidal makes his presence known by occupying open space and distributing play to Lionel Messi or Luis Suarez in the final third. And as a base midfielder, the Chilean international sprays possession at an adequate rate and tracks back to defend like no other player on the team.
Not many midfielders are able to be the relentless force in the middle park with a knack for contributing to both the attacking and defensive sides of play.
In the grand scheme of things, Vidal is needed because of depth.
For a team competing in all three major competitions, Barcelona must rotate players in order to remain competitive in each and every fixture. With Real Madrid right behind them in La Liga and the change to a single-game knockout over the first couple of rounds in the Copa Del Rey, Barcelona can not afford to have a single slip-up.
With Carles Alena loaned off to Real Betis coupled with the nagging injury to Arthur, Barcelona are not in the position to lose another midfielder from their rotation.
Vidal’s decision may come sooner rather than later, but as the transfer window goes on, he must realize that no other club will be able to match his elusive goals of competing to win the Champions League and earning consistent playing time at this point in his career.
If he winds up joining Inter Milan, Vidal will no longer be competing in the Champions League and may well find himself in another battle for playing time. A move to the Premier League seems unlikely at this point, despite some rumored interest from Manchester United.
At this point, it is best for both Barcelona and Vidal to play out the season. Both sides can revisit a potential departure over the summer transfer window when they can move on with a clean break. Vidal will be able to line up multiple suitors for a transfer deal by then and Barcelona can line up midfield reinforcements. But for now, it is imperative for both sides that they patch things up.
If Vidal can remain focused on doing his part for the rest of the campaign while preventing recent off-field issues from forming a dark cloud over the team, he can continue to provide the dirty work that Barcelona need to accomplish their shared goals.