In soccer, the rich keep getting richer. The grey-templed crown jewel of Bayern Munich, Bastian Schweinsteiger, is a now a Manchester United player, and so the mohawked Arturo Vidal steps into his place. They're two contrasting players with different styles. Where Schweinsteiger looks dashing and regal in three-piece suits and charming even in the most dull of structured interviews, Vidal looks more suited for the the rebellious age of the 1970s punk rock scene.
He plays like it as well: His no-nonsense, hard-nosed attitude between the two goals, his use of direct running in the place of fancy tricks and the way he toes the line between aggression and recklessness is akin to the hard-edged melodies, stripped-down instruments and anti-establishment notions of that era. While his contemporaries strengthened their legs in fancy academies in their youth, Vidal built his muscles working at a horse racetrack in his hometown.
In Vidal's last European game for Juventus, he fell victim to the earth-shaking attacking trident led by Lionel Messi in the Champions League final. The man who also put his new team, Bayern, to the sword just a round before. But vengeance is a dish best served after a penalty shoot-out. Vidal and Chile would best Messi and Argentina for the Copa America title a few months later, a title that Messi had acknowledged would have healed the wounds of his World Cup disappointment.
In that Champions League game, Vidal introduced himself by arriving like a discharged bullet to a tussle between Sergio Busquets and Alvaro Morata and dispossessing the Barcelona man. He then shrugged off Jordi Alba and advanced the attack. After Juventus lost the ball again, he sprinted back to scythe down an advancing Andres Iniesta from behind. It was bad enough to warrant a yellow card, but the referee decided against it.
Next we saw him barging into the back of Dani Alves, which led to another talking to from the referee. He walked away shaking his head. Then in one of Juve's first attacks, Morata beat his man on the right wing before pulling the ball back for Vidal, as he made a late run into the box. He connected but the ball sailed over the goal and into the stands. His head shaking became more severe.
A pass to an offside Carlos Tevez after Morata out-muscled Javier Mascherano was then followed up by a sliding challenge into Busquets. It was a clear foul and Vidal got another talking to. This was just the first 10 minutes.
Ivan Rakitic had already scored for Barcelona at this point, and Vidal had probably covered the length of the field four times. In his fifth go-around, he raced back to help defend against Neymar as the Brazilian tried to weave his way through the defense, and got clattered for his troubles. Another foul, another talking to for Vidal.
Luckily for Juve, he settled down. The next few minutes were a perfect display of what he encompasses: he raced back and forth, spraying passes on offense and using his energy to apply pressure from the attack while ever-present on the defensive end. Battling with the likes of Iniesta and Busquets in midfield, speeding back to close the angles on Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez before driving the ball into the final third; cutting in from the right and blasting a ferocious shot that cannoned off a defender.
In one instance, he caught Rakitic isolated in the Barcelona defensive third. The Croatian dallied on the ball and in a flash, Vidal pounced, fought him off and stole possession. As easy as taking candy from a baby. Not long after, he received a pass from Claudio Marchisio, turned effortlessly and released Morata into space, eventually leading to a big chance for Tevez.
Right before he was taken off, a cross came into the Barcelona box and was headed out. Iniesta ran after it with Vidal slightly behind him. As Iniesta weny to touch it, Vidal suddenly jumped in-between him and the ball and forced the Barcelona midfielder to panic and lose control. Vidal tried to urge the crowd on through his shallow and heavy breaths. He was clearly exhausted by this point.
This was Arturo Vidal at his worst. Overexcited, reckless and crushed by the occasion. Yet, when he became more relaxed and played to his strengths, he managed to not only create several scoring chances, but challenge a dominant Barcelona midfield too. Few have the qualities that he possesses: the absurd stamina, the ability to score from late runs into the box, the proficiency with both feet and the desire to track back and defend. He's a true box-to-box midfielder.
In Vidal, Pep Guardiola might be faced with someone more manic than he is. In the Bayern system where pressure is king and fluidity of positions is essential, the Chilean seems to be the perfect fit. While Schweinsteiger played almost every available minute that he was fit, it had been evident that his pace and energy was gone. The cost of winning everything is that his legs no longer had much life in them. He's still very much a capable footballer, but the constant frenzy of the system exposed his weaknesses.
Vidal is the antithesis of that. He seems born for chaos. It was his energy and two-way play that pushed Chile to dominate Argentina in a Copa America final that was reduced to the survival of the fittest. It was that verve that led them to the promised land.
While he's prone to carelessness and numerous cautions, he's also one of the most tenacious and talented midfielders in world football. And at Bayern Munich, he will be joining a class of players as dogged as he is. It's a match made in a pressure cooker.