Barcelona completed the signing of Aleix Vidal from Sevilla for £16 million in early June, as Luis Enrique's treble-winning outfit made its first acquisition of the summer transfer window.
Vidal arrives after a successful campaign at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan under Unai Emery in which he played a leading role in Sevilla's capture of a second consecutive Europa League title. Prior to that, the 25-year-old had spent three seasons at Almeria, where his outstanding play helped the Andalusians secure promotion from the Segunda Division into La Liga in 2012-13.
The Catalan's signing was announced while speculation mounted over the future of right-back Dani Alves, suggesting Barcelona view Vidal as a potential long-term successor to the Brazilian. But Vidal will now be forced to wait, with Alves signing a new, two-year deal to remain at the Camp Nou in the days following Vidal's arrival.
The former Barcelona youth player will also have to be patient for his debut with the Blaugrana. Still serving a transfer ban for breaching rules over the signing of international players under the age of 18, Barcelona can't register and field new signings until January 2016.
"Positives come with that," said Vidal, per the Guardian, when asked about his delayed debut. "I can concentrate on getting ready for where I'm going to play."
Below, we take a look at Vidal's game, where he'll play and what he'll offer Barcelona next season.
Vidal is primarily a right-winger and has spent the bulk of his senior career playing as such.
It's taken time for his career to blossom—prior to his breakthrough at Almeria, he'd spent short stints at Espanyol B, Panthrakikos, Pobla Mafumet, Gimnastic and Mallorca B, and his youth career was similar—but in the past three seasons he's grown to become one of Spain's most effective attackers, earning a call-up to Vicente del Bosque's national squad for the recent clashes with Costa Rica and Belarus.
But Vidal is versatile. He's also a capable right-back as well. One of the traits of Sevilla under Emery has been game-to-game adjustments, and Barcelona's new signing was used in defence with great effect on numerous occasions.
Indeed, Emery's attention to detail and obsession with tactical analysis has seen Vidal, like many others at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, develop a well-rounded two-way game.
Vidal is the type of player fans love: a tireless worker with an insatiable appetite for the contest. In terms of work rate and ferocity as a wide man, he's similar to Alexis Sanchez.
But while the now-departed Chilean likes to twist, turn and evade when in possession, Vidal plays vertically. He stretches the game.
At Sevilla in 2014-15, he was a hard-running force down the right flank. Possessing genuine pace, he was a potent counter-attacking weapon for Emery and linked up terrifically with midfield team-mates to make surging runs into the opposition penalty area—something Barcelona will remember well from their trip to Seville in April, when Vidal's run and assist for Kevin Gameiro's equaliser denied them two points.
That goal was a classic example of the threat Barca's new signing offers: So often, having beaten the opposition's left-back, he's found deep in the penalty area near the touchline pulling balls back across goal. In total, Vidal finished the 2014-15 season with nine assists and six goals of his own playing in such a manner.
But there's a lot more to Vidal's game than just attacking.
Having spent time as a right-back in the early years of his career, the Catalan has developed a defensive edge to his game, too. And Emery oversaw significant improvement in that aspect of Vidal's game with his obsessive managerial approach that demands discipline, maximum effort and tactical awareness from every player.
Without the ball, Vidal's pace allows him to track back, close down and harass opponents. He recovers rapidly, isn't afraid to engage in a physical battle and seems to relish the challenge of taking on the division's finest.
Where He'll Fit
Though Vidal is an attacking player by trade, it appears Barcelona will attempt to groom him to eventually replace Alves at right-back.
He won't be a like-for-like replacement, however. Alves is irreplaceable and totally unique. He has his flaws, yes, but his combination of pace, technical ability, soft touch, passing vision and trickery is unmatched among defenders. In the last 10 years in Spain, no one has more assists than Alves. He's the best right-back in Barcelona's history. ESPN FC's Sid Lowe called him a "footballing Sonic the Hedgehog."
Vidal will need some polishing before he's ready to take over, with his technical ability needing work despite his blistering speed. The former Almeria star, a winger by trade, will also need to reign in his attacking instincts if he's to make a permanent shift to the defence, tempering his natural tendency to charge forward at every opportunity.
There is also the possibility Enrique will use him as an alternate forward who can come off the bench or be rotated through the XI against lesser opponents. But with Pedro signing a new deal and Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar occupying the attacking posts, chances in attack are likely to be rare.
Thus, it's as a right-back where Vidal's immediate future appears to be, and Barcelona will look to develop him in the Alves mould.