A year on from spending £27million on Marouane Fellaini, Manchester United and Louis van Gaal are reluctant to part with a similar ballpark figure to land Arturo Vidal from Juventus.
The Chilean international has been one of two midfielders heavily linked with a move to the club this summer; the other being Angel Di Maria. But Vidal would hold far more importance to United’s restructuring than the Real Madrid winger.
Di Maria has looked destined for the exit door at the Bernabeu for the last year. Ahead of the January window, it appeared that Monaco had stolen a march on their rivals for Di Maria’s signature. That move didn’t materialise, but Florentino Perez’s new-found fancy of James Rodriguez, and the involvement of Gareth Bale and rise of Jese Rodriguez, forces the need for a major sale, much like Mesut Ozil’s following Bale’s signing last summer.
Manchester United don’t need Di Maria in the way they need Vidal. The winger would be a great signing for the club. He’d be an upgrade in more than one position now that Carlo Ancelotti has converted the creative winger into a central midfielder. But United have an abundance of options in personnel, even if they all aren’t natural wide players, as well as a range of tactical options through van Gaal. It’s quite possible the former Netherlands coach will ditch the use of wide players altogether and go with something similar to what he produced with Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie as two centre-forwards.
Even if that isn’t the case, Vidal’s importance can’t be stressed enough – or at least a player fitting the Chilean’s description.
Ander Herrera has been purchased, but the club must be mindful of what made the former Athletic Bilbao midfielder such a success, especially last season. He isn’t a natural defensive player, and although he does have plenty of bite to his game, players like Ander Iturraspe at Bilbao are essential to getting the best out of United’s newest midfield addition.
Not only that, but United are lacking leadership in the middle of the park. Herrera can go some way to offering the imagination now lost through Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs’ retirement, but he isn’t yet the player who can replace their leadership qualities. Vidal, on the other hand, won’t just lead through his vocal capacity, but also in his all-action style.
Here’s the stumbling block: Vidal does have a recent history of knee problems. The Juventus man went in for surgery in May, with concerns that he wouldn’t be ready for the World Cup. It can be the only problem preventing United making a move for the player, who, at 27 and with a wealth of experience, can’t be considered overpriced at £34 million.
There’s a strong argument to make that Vidal is currently the world’s premier midfielder, able to offer everything from his central position. Those qualities haven’t been lost on clubs like Bayern Munich and Real Madrid. If the Chilean does want to leave Turin – and there is never any smoke without fire – it would be negligent for Manchester United to overlook him on the basis of a few million.
Di Maria would have helped to accelerate United’s progression back to the top of the Premier League. After his best season in European football, now is the time to secure the Argentine. But United have a more than capable Juan Mata and an exciting prospect in Adnan Januzaj. Even if the club do need to boost their midfield ranks with a natural winger, there are cheaper options over the fee Real Madrid are demanding, said to be €60 million.
But they don’t come much better than Vidal, and they don’t come as important to United as a player like the 27-year-old. After missing out on Kevin Strootman last summer – not as good as Vidal, but a very good player anyway; and not to suggest Strootman is absolutely out of the question – the club can’t afford another slipup, especially not of this magnitude.
United must also take into account Antonio Conte’s recent resignation as Juventus manager, possibly forced through the impending sale of either Vidal or Paul Pogba.
United have the funds, now is the time to capitalise and push on from the numerous disasters of last season.