He played his very first minutes for Barça against Espanyol last Wednesday, he is one of Spanish football's most interesting prospects, and he comes from a very long way. His name: Aleix Vidal. But who is he really?
Last Wednesday, at Camp Nou, two Barcelona players made their debut. On the one hand, Arda Turan, whom Europe learned to discover through his successful domestic campaigns with Atlético Madrid and a Champion’s League final in 2014.
On the other, there is Aleix Vidal, former Sevilla right back and relatively discreet on the international scene. He is announced by many as Dani Alves’ successor. But who is this exciting young footballer Blaugrana fans were waiting to see in action?
Aleix Vidal Parreu – 26 years old
Born 21/8/1989 in Puigpelat (Tarragona) – Catalonia
Born and raised in the region of Tarragona, near Barcelona, Aleix Vidal was a young boy craving for football. And he was very good at it, so much that while he was playing as a striker in the Football School of Valls, he got an opportunity to play for FC Barcelona, aged 11. It only took him two weeks to convince Sergio Lobera, who was in charge of the category there.
Unfortunately, talent and hard work are not all and a bit of luck must be involved in order to get to the professional level. Aleix Vidal learnt it the hard way. First, he was not conserved by FC Barcelona and came back to Tarragona’s area to play for Cambrils. There, he got another big club’s attention: Real Madrid. Despite a strict education in the capital’s SEK International High School, Vidal received a three-year contract offer from la Casa Blanca he cheerfully signed, before to be told by the SEK he could no longer be a student at the school, therefore terminating his chances to play at Santiago Bernabeu.
One more obstacle should threaten Vidal’s dreams. Its name: Espanyol. After having shined back in Reus, Catalonia, Aleix was proposed a contract at Barça’s local rival. Unfortunately, the youth team was already fully packed and the only option was a loan at CF Damm. The next summer, it was an intern war that took over his best interests, preventing him from playing once again in the reserve, and throwing him to Greece’s Superliga, at newly promoted Panthrakikos, for a year. Back to Cornella, Aleix was not much luckier, and had to find an alternative route. He selected Pobla de Mafumet, Nastic Tarragona’s subsidiary, in Spanish Third Division. He signed for two seasons but only did one, as he got left out once again.
A rightful reward
Without even questioning his fate, young Aleix, aged 21, kept on believing. If Mallorca let their chance go by, after leaving him vegetate in the club's reserve for a year, Almeria did not. During the summer, the Andalousian side came to Vidal to give him his chance. Still thinking about a success story, the young wing-back said yes. Although he should have played for the reserve, he impressed the first team coach, with whom he was training during the pre-season. He only played one game in the reserve, scored two goals before to be promoted in the first team. Then, Vidal experienced promotion to La Liga within 2 years and played his first ever season of top-flight football on the third one. He only needed one season to get FC Seville’s attention. He signed there for 3M € in the summer of 2014.
Three years after his arrival in Almeria, Aleix Vidal could finally make his dream come true and show his worth on the big stage. And it only got better. 47 games, 12 goals and 1 Europa League in one season. We all know the story from here: Vidal signed for FC Barcelona, 15 years after his first Blaugrana experience, for 17 M€. He is now willing to give his best under Barcelona’s shirt and conquer other trophies alongside Luis Enrique’s Catalan Armada.
Dani Alves 2.0
Considered by many observers as the rightful successor of Dani Alves on Barcelona’s right side, Aleix Vidal has got a very complete, multipurpose profile. He is able to play as a full back or as a winger to bring danger to the opponent’s area. His past as a striker in the youth teams helped him a lot to develop his technical abilities he now uses to torture his opponents. He also has a very combative mindset whenever he enters the pitch, and always gives his best, emphasising on intensity and agressiveness. However, he respects the rules and happens to be a very clean defender. The fact he has not received a single red card since the beginning of his profesional career proves it.
Like his Brazilian teamate, Aleix is very offensive on the pitch, he is capable to switch between a defensive stance and an all-attack attitude, a precious asset for Barça’s versatile style of play, in which pressing is key and counter-attack an art. There is no doubt that Aleix Vidal has all the qualities necessary to be the perfect counterpart to Jordi Alba, on his right flank. And even if he needed some adaptation, he is not the type of individual to give up in front of adversity.
In his presentation as FC Barcelona player, Vidal said replacing Alves was a challenge.
2008-09 -> Panthrakikos
2009-10 -> Pobla de Mafumet (Gimnastic Tarragona's subsidiary)
2010-11 -> Real Mallorca B
2011-14 -> Almeria
2014-15 -> FC Sevilla
Since 2015 -> FC Barcelona
Total: 187 games, 25 goals, 25 assists, 21 yellow cards, 0 red cards
Europa League : 1 (2014-15, FC Seville)
International caps – Spain
1 (11/6/2015: Spain 2-1 Costa Rica, León)