In Celebration of Arturo Vidal: An Ageing Midfielder Who Still Has Oil Left in the Tank

Arturo Vidal
RCD Espanyol v FC Barcelona - La Liga | Eric Alonso/MB Media/Getty Images

"I'm not paying for you for the player you used to be, I'm paying for the player you are right now."

That's one of the most memorable lines from Brad Pitt's 2011 film Moneyball. In the scene in question, Pitt's character - the general manager of a lowly baseball team - reminds an ageing, former star player that he did not sign him merely to sell season tickets, but because he felt he could have a big part to play in his side's pursuit of victory.

At 32, Arturo Vidal is in decline. There is no doubt about that.

He isn't as quick as he used to be, and perhaps has lost a little bite, though he remains a tough tackler. Despite this, Vidal is still one of the most complete midfielders in the world; an aggressive, intelligent player who retains excellent anticipation and possesses the ability to make good passes and score.

It is these qualities - the player he is right now - that we should celebrate. We aren't reminiscing about his exploits with Juventus and Bayern Munich (though this will be touched upon), but instead trying to seek an understanding of why Internazionale manager Antonio Conte so desperately wants a reunion with the Chilean midfielder.

Arturo Vidal
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Vidal began his career in his native Chile with Colo-Colo, before earning a move to Europe with Bayer Leverkusen. His big break came after an impressive 2010/11 season - when he scored ten goals and created a further nine for Bayer - when Conte's Juventus snapped him up. During his time in Turin, he emerged as one of the world's best players, being deployed as a box-to-box midfielder with a penchant for hard-tackling, as well as possessing the ability to both create and score goals.

By the time he left Juventus for Bayern Munich in 2015, he had racked up 48 goals and 25 assists in 171 appearances for La Vecchia Signora, and had a similar level of success back in the Bundesliga.

After three years with Bayern, he moved on to Barcelona. It was a surprising move at the time, and nearly two years on, he is something of a forgotten figure at Camp Nou.

Vidal has only started on eight occasions for Barcelona in the league this season - coming off the bench in 14 other league games. Truthfully, it's easy to see why. For a team like la Blaugrana, where retaining possession is king, he has a lower pass success rate than Frenkie de Jong and Arthur, who have 91.8% and 90.9% respectively compared to Vidal's 87.8%.

Arturo Vidal
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When compared to Inter's starting central midfielders in Stefano Sensi, Matias Vecino, Marcelo Brozovic and Nicolo Barella, only one player - Brozovic - has a higher pass success rate than Vidal.

In terms of tackling, which the Chilean is particularly good at, he ranks higher than any other of Barcelona's central midfielders and, when compared to Inter's starting midfielders, only Brozovic averages more tackles.

Offensively, Vidal has scored six goals for Barcelona this season - more than any other Blaugrana midfielder, while a total of two assists, taking into consideration that he's only started eight games, isn't too shabby either. Once again, comparing it to his potential Inter teammates, no midfielder has scored more. His ability to score - especially from range - would be incredibly important should one of Romelu Lukaku or Lautaro Martinez (should he stay) have an off-day.

Vidal is also still a versatile player, being deployed as an attacking midfielder and a winger during his time at Barcelona, which is something that Conte likes in his players. Considering this and the fact that is still an adept passer, tackler, and has the ability to create and score goals, it's clear to see why the Italian coach wants him. Yes, he is beyond his peak, but isn't just a name, or a marquee signing. He would be an incredibly key player for Conte's Inter and still has much more to contribute.