It was always going to be a risky decision when Aleix Vidal decided to move from Sevilla to Barcelona last summer despite the Catalan club’s ban on registering players. In the season before Euro 2016, Vidal surely needed as many minutes as possible if he was going to force his way into Vicente Del Bosque’s summer plans, so sitting in the VIP box of Camp Nou for half a season was hardly ideal.
Still, the chance to join Barcelona was too good for the Catalan right-back-cum-right-winger to turn down and he put pen to paper last summer. He was finally eligible to play for Barca in January and made his debut against Espanyol in the Copa del Rey. Initially it seemed as if Vidal was going to keep another ex-Sevilla right-back Dani Alves out of the squad as Vidal started the first three League matches for which he was eligible.
Yet Alves fought back and has since reasserted himself as Barcelona’s first-choice right-back with some excellent performances in February and March. That means that Vidal has spent even more time watching on from the sidelines, which will not aid his chances of going to Euro 2016. Over the 25 matches Barcelona have played since Vidal became eligible in January, Vidal has played an average of just 34 minutes per match.
The worst thing for Vidal’s chances of going to France this summer is that his position is one of the most competitive. While Jordi Alba on the left-hand side is essentially uncontested at left-back, there are several candidates for the Spanish right-back slot.
Juanfran is having an excellent season at Atletico Madrid and, even more importantly, is playing week after week. Real Madrid’s Dani Carvajal has played less regularly than Juanfran, but has still had far more opportunities to impress than Vidal has, as has Mario Gaspar. Then Hector Bellerin and Cesar Azpilicueta have both shown fans of the Premier League that they are among the best right-backs in Europe.
It is not only that Vidal’s sample size is smaller than those of the names above. Even when he has played ahead of Alves for Barcelona, he has not been as good as his rivals for the Spain spot. His 1.65 interceptions per 90 minutes and his 0.99 tackles per 90 minutes are lower than the numbers of Juanfran, Carvajal, Bellerin and Azpilicueta in their respective Leagues.
The only reason Vidal may earn a spot on the flight to France is the fact that he is versatile. Vidal did not even play at right-back until two seasons ago when Sevilla Coach Unai Emery began to deploy the right-winger in that position. Only then were his defensive abilities fully appreciated, but he is still more than capable of paying on the right of midfield. There is a slight chance, therefore, that del Bosque will take Vidal to the tournament ahead of other right-back options because of his ability to play further forward when necessary.
However, the fact he has not made a Spain squad since last June suggests he is not in Del Bosque’s plans for this tournament.