On Monday, Barcelona snapped up their first signing of the summer in midfielder Aleix Vidal, who is also able to play as a right-back. This suggested that Vidal could be a perfect successor for Dani Alves at Barcelona, as reports claimed that the Brazilian would depart La Liga with AC Milan linked with a move for the 32-year-old.
However, quite surprisingly, Alves decided to sign a new two-year deal to extend his stay at Barcelona only one day after Barcelona confirmed the signing of Aleix Vidal. However, Vidal won’t be able to make his official debut for his new club until next year due to the fact that Blaugrana are currently placed under a transfer embargo which expires in January 2016. It appeared that Vidal’s arrival was supposedly set to end Alves’ stay at Camp Nou, so the latter’s decision to remain at the club following the signing of the Spaniard was somewhat surprising.
Alves appeared before the press on Wednesday to talk about the reasons why he decided to continue. “I follow my heart, and my heart told me to stay. For me it’s really important to be part of this Club. This story still has a lot of pages left to write,” stated Alves, while also highlighting the role his teammates played in his decision: “I’ve never seen a group connect like this, and that led me to my decision to continue.”
He realised his potential with Barcelona, with many feeling he is still a valuable player for Luis Enrique’s side. As a matter of fact, the fans of Barcelona have every right to do so, as the Brazilian international, who arrived from Sevilla in 2008, has registered 51 assists in the last six La Liga seasons. Only Lionel Messi (85) and Cristiano Ronaldo (65) have assisted more.
Moreover, his tireless work off the ball also saw him make more tackles (124) than any other player in Spain’s top tier last term. So, it is fair enough to say that Alves remains an important player for Barcelona.
Nevertheless, the Catalan club have clearly identified Aleix Vidal as the natural successor to the Brazilian and although this means that Barcelona now have four players capable of playing at right-back, with Martin Montoya and Douglas also able to do the job, there is no doubt that Alves and Vidal will battle it out for a starting place in Enrique’s formation.
Alves’ average of 1.3 key passes per game last season was only marginally better than Vidal (1), while the latter completed more successful dribbles per game (1) than the former (0.8), though that in part is likely to be down to Vidal often being deployed higher up field. Alves’ ball retention also stands him in high stead, with his average number of passes per game (64.7) ranking 6th in La Liga last campaign. Vidal, in comparison, averaged just 25.4, while his pass success rate (74.4%) was also significantly worse than Alves’ (88.5%), as per Whoscored.
Although the Spaniard may not be as technically gifted as Alves is, his work ethic and his ability to continuously gallop up the flank will be highly appreciated by the fans of Barcelona. It’s this high energy approach that must have appealed to Enrique in his quest to bolster this Barcelona side and bring him back to Catalonia, where, back in 2001, Vidal was one of the many Catalan youngsters in Barcelona’s highly-renowned youth system alongside the 11-year-old Jordi Alba, with whom he managed to build a very effective attacking partnership with. Both players could play together again next season, but this time not as an attacking duo, but a defensive one.
Aleix Vidal may not quite be the finished product, but Enrique is the perfect manager to mould him into his ideal full-back, having enough time to do so. It is easy to say that Vidal is unlikely to be as effective in an attacking role as Alves has been since he arrived at Barcelona, but, after all, Vidal is not a poor stand in, nor heir, to the Brazilian’s right-back throne.