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Why Juventus' Arturo Vidal Is the Best Central Midfielder in World Football

BERGAMO, ITALY - DECEMBER 22:  Arturo Vidal of Juventus gestures during the Serie A match between Atalanta BC and Juventus at Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia on December 22, 2013 in Bergamo, Italy.  (Photo by Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images)
Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images
Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterJanuary 14, 2014

As usual, a large quantity of the best players in 2013 were snubbed by the FIFPro World XI.

The award, supposedly given out to the Team of the Year based on performances alone, is often a total mockery, but this year it hit new lows.

The three-man midfield selection—consisting of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Franck Ribery—is difficult to understand. While Iniesta has been excellent as usual, Ribery is not a central midfielder and Xavi is on the decline.

There are many issues with the team in its entirety, but the biggest travesty of them all is that the best central midfielder in world football—Arturo Vidal—did not make an appearance.

The Chilean is Juventus' crown jewel, even ahead of Paul Pogba in the adoring eyes of the fans, and had a year to remember in 2013 for both club and country.

That he will attract a transfer fee of more than £40 million in the next few seasons is a testament to his abilities. With Bastian Schweinsteiger struggling a little and Andrea Pirlo declining ever so slightly, Vidal has made the most of his chance to be seen as the greatest on earth.

His versatility, tactical understanding and phenomenal physical ability place him a cut above the rest, and both Antonio Conte and Jorge Sampaoli have crafted systems that unlock his best.

Conte's Juventus 3-5-2
Conte's Juventus 3-5-2B/R Tighe

He's a raw athlete: quick, snappy, strong as an ox with endless stamina. His desire to win 50/50s and reach lost balls sets his attitude apart from that of most others.

Vidal made his name as a defensive midfielder: crunching in the challenge, quick to step out and reach for the ball in the interception and a clever reader of the game. His performances for Bayer Leverkusen were so good that Bayern Munich attempted to sign him in the summer of 2011.

Despite being tagged as a destroyer, the Chilean grabbed 10 goals and 11 assists in his final season for the Werkself. Since arriving in Turin, he's continued to contribute offensively.

Conte's use of him in a 3-5-2 formation unlocks his incredible burst, thirst for the ball and ability to run at opponents—scaring them, forcing them into untimely moves. His defensive contribution remains, as he recorded 4.9 tackles and 1.5 interceptions per game in Serie A last season.

Sampaoli's Chile 3-4-3/4-3-3
Sampaoli's Chile 3-4-3/4-3-3B/R Tighe

He's essentially a dual threat; a shield for either Pirlo or Marcelo Diaz in defence, yet potent on the attack as an offensive battering ram capable of hitting double digits in the goals column every season.

Vidal is as prototypically box-to-box as you can get, and what you don't get a feel for on the TV screen is how his physical dominance subdues other teams' midfields. They shrink as soon as they see him.

He's a game-breaker at both ends of the pitch, capable of putting in a goal-saving interception and tearing forward 50 yards with the ball and finding the net. There are few who can boast such presence in every area of the pitch.

It's remarkable that FIFPro failed to recognise such consistent levels of excellence.

 

Statistics from WhoScored.com.

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