There were rumors that Bayern Munich were going to part ways with Chilean midfield warrior Arturo Vidal this winter. Rumors which have since been squashed by club management. However, there are reasons to think that Vidal could be on his way out this summer.
There can be no doubt that Arturo Vidal is a world-class player, but his form this season in Munich has not been as impressive as it was in the past. However, this season has been a mixed bag, with the Chilean warrior performing poorly under Carlo Ancelotti (like most of Bayern). Fans thought he would improve once Jupp Heynckes took over, but that took much longer than expected, especially given how other players such as David Alaba and Thomas Müller bounced back relatively quickly.
Eventually, Vidal did start to play well again, but because Heynckes intervened. He even addressed this in a recent press conference when Vidal’s performances began to go up again. He said: “Vidal worked really hard these last two weeks because I was not happy at all with how he was playing and told him that there are different players that can and will play on his position if he doesn’t improve”.
Perhaps it helps that Heynckes and Vidal have had a good relationship that dates back to when both of them were at Leverkusen. Jupp was able to get Vidal to perform at a top level again. On the other hand, if he shows signs of decline, another manager might not be able to get the same performances out of him.
Incoming Leon Goretzka
This is arguably the biggest reason that the Bavarians might consider offloading Vidal. Leon Goretzka was officially confirmed by the club and will join Bayern Munich on a free transfer this summer. This means that Bayern effectively have three box-to-box midfielders on the roster if you count Goretzka, Corentin Tolisso, and Arturo Vidal.
With Bayern at least, there is only a need to have one box-to-box player on the pitch at a time. We have seen a few occasions where both Carlo Ancelotti and Jupp Heynckes decided to put Tolisso and Vidal on the pitch at the same time, and results have not been all that stellar. With both players requiring freedom to attack and defend as they need to, this often lead to redundancies on the pitch.
Bayern’s central midfield functions best when it has someone who can shield the defense, Javi Martínez, along with a box-to-box player and a creative midfielder such as James Rodríguez or Thiago Alcântara. Typically, there is only one spot for a box-to-box midfielder. Unless Vidal can adapt his game to slip into a deeper role Bayern have two young players in Goretzka and Tolisso who will require more playing time to develop.
When he is on form, he is unstoppable, but there is a lot of reason to think that Arturo Vidal could begin a sudden decline. He will be 31 years old soon, which is not terribly old for a football player but it is old when you consider his playing style.
Vidal is an incredibly physical player who runs a lot and makes lots of tackles. (Sometimes recklessly.) This playing style eventually begins to take its toll on the body and we could start to see Vidal get injured more frequently or simply start to slow down. We have seen it in many other players, probably most prominently in Bastian Schweinsteiger, who began to decline almost immediately after the World Cup in 2014.
Some players can last a bit longer, like Xabi Alonso. His playing style was less physical and more mental. He acted as a deep-lying playmaker or a “quarter-back” of the team – making long passes forward and dictating play from the back. Vidal plays very differently and runs a lot more, meaning his body has taken a greater toll.
Bayern could see this as an opportunity to make some money in a final transfer and sell Vidal before a decline is clear and obvious. With Tolisso and Goretzka around, there has never been a better time to do so.
Vidal himself could even want to leave Bayern Munich, even though the Chilean has never made that clear. Near the end of his career, he could see his last contract as his last chance to make big money. It is not implausible that Vidal has his eye on the door. There are opportunities in England to make his last big pay-day, or even the chance to go to China for astronomical wages.
Footballers careers are often pretty short. While they get paid handsomely, they all still need to think of the future of themselves and their families. Some players go into coaching or become a talking head on TV, but this is reserved for a select few players. Vidal may not want to do that, or may not even have the talent to do so. He could see this as his last chance to make a big paycheck, and fans can hardly blame him if he wants to earn it.
Should Bayern move on?
Personally, I am a big fan of Arturo Vidal as a player. I think he fits into Bayern’s system better than Leon Goretzka, at least so far. However, Goretzka is much younger, and there are legitimate reasons for Bayern to consider moving forward without the Chilean midfield warrior as part of their plans next season.