Arturo Vidal is the perfect midfielder. He's composed from the best parts of other midfielders, both ball-winner and goal-scorer in equal measure. No one else closes down space maniacally, managing to appear everywhere on the pitch seemingly at once, but somehow never out of position. Vidal combines these things no one else does with the touch and tidy passing to make him useful to any kind of team, in any situation. Juventus couldn't ask for more in a player.
Sergio Ramos is not the same kind of player, even if Carlo Ancelotti would like him to be. Sure, he has all of the qualities to be a useful box-to-box midfielder, but not yet the experience in the position or direction from his coach, and perhaps he'll never have the mindset. Ramos looks out of place when he plays in the center of midfield for Real Madrid, leaving everyone wishing for him to be just a bit better at absolutely everything.
This contrast was the key to Juve's 2-1 win, and it was not at all surprising. Vidal has been one of the world's best midfielders for quite some time and Ramos has only played the position for three games, performing superbly in none of them. Ramos might have most of the talent that Vidal has, but playing midfield is extremely difficult.
Vidal is really good at it, and he was far and away the best player on the pitch for either Madrid or Juventus on Tuesday. His heatmap was basically just a red field. He led his team in tackles and clearances, and was second in interceptions from an attacking midfield position. On one attack, he was a central attacking midfielder. The next, a right winger. Then a left winger. Then a deep-lying playmaker. And all the while, he made Toni Kroos' life hell and put pressure on the Madrid fullbacks too. Madrid played with the customary 11 players and Juventus appeared to be playing with 13.
Ramos did none of these things. He gave the ball away constantly, was caught out of position regularly, didn't make late runs into the box, didn't press, didn't prevent Juventus' attackers from getting the ball, didn't really do anything. Ramos was a warm body, taking up space, doing nothing to differentiate himself from the much lesser players that Madrid might be forced to play in event of an injury crisis.
Occasionally a manager will throw a player into a brand new position in a massive game, without testing them in any real games beforehand, and it works out swimmingly. Think Pepe, a center back, playing defensive midfield for Jose Mourinho's Madrid, or Fabinho's move from right back to the same position becoming the key to Monaco's upset of Arsenal this year. Ramos is a decent example of this himself -- he was an attacking right back for the entirety of his career until he got a couple of looks in the center in 2010, then permanently became a central defender in the 2011-12 season.
His failure to make another transition to another new role is a perfect illustration of just how hard it is to be anywhere approaching as good as Vidal. Ramos, who shares Vidal's athleticism, tenacity, stamina, ball-winning ability and intelligence, should be a decent match for him. Sure, Ramos hasn't played much midfield in his career, and no one would ever mistake him for a threat to score with his feet, but he has roughly 80 percent of the elements that make Vidal amazing. And yet, he just doesn't resemble a decent midfielder at all.
The vast difference between the two players is what makes Vidal so amazing, and his performance so impressive. Real Madrid are the Champions League holders, one of the best teams in the world again this year, and they fielded Vidal's equal in ferocious attitude and physical ability. Vidal wiped the floor with that guy and his teammates. Ramos was easy to destroy, a virtual non-factor.
Ramos should be a poor man's Vidal, but instead, he might as well have been a scarecrow. Having 80 percent of the elements that make up Vidal does not make one 80 percent of Vidal, something Ancelotti found out the hard way.