Aleix Vidal has not been with Barcelona even for a full week and already he's been drawing comparisons with one of the greatest full-backs to not only wear a Barcelona shirt, but to grace the football pitch. That is perhaps unfair to Vidal, as comparing the newest Barcelona recruit, who at the age of 25 is just now starting to make his mark in football, to a legend of Alves' stature, especially considering the Brazilian's last three months, is hardly a fair fight. But maybe, just maybe, Vidal might hold his own against the Brazilian...
Vidal had an excellent 2014-15 season and was one of the key players to Sevilla's success in the Europa League, contributing to six goals for the Andalusian side in Europe. But that is just the tip of the iceberg for the Spaniard. Taking the entire season in account, Vidal scored six goals and assisted on eleven in 47 appearances (3366 minutes played). Alves, on the other hand, finished the season without scoring a goal, but contributed with eleven assists of his own in 46 games (3927 minutes).
The attacking statistics are certainly in favor of Vidal, which shouldn't come as a major surprise considering the Spaniard spent most of the season playing as a winger. The two might have had similar duties in attack, providing width and support, but Vidal took his chances with much greater consistency and was all around much less wasteful than his now Brazilian teammate, as further evidenced by the first infographic of the off-season, again provided to us by the great folks of SportsMatrix.
As you can see, Vidal is a much more accurate crosser of the ball, by almost 10% in fact, even though Sevilla is almost similarly height-challenged in attack as Barcelona. That, combined with less balls lost in attempted dribbles, led to the fact that Vidal created more scoring opportunities for his team compared to Alves. Also worth mentioning is the statistic that 4% of Vidal's total passes led to scoring chances while only 2% of Alves' did so.
So, if Vidal gains the upper hand in the major attacking categories, how do the two stack up in defense? First of all, of the 47 appearances Vidal made this season, only ten came with him starting the game at right back, though one of them was the Europa League Final against Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk. Worth mentioning here is that Vidal's attacking play hardly, if at all, suffered while playing in the defensive line as he scored two goals and assisted on four in very limited time.
Vidal's and Alves' roles while playing right-back were basically mirror images of each other. Both were attacking oriented, providing support and width to the team. Defensively both were expected to track back as fast as possible, something the eye-test shows that Alves often struggled with, but adding up all the major defensive statistics, Alves is the clear winner. Again, fairly obvious considering Alves saw nearly 4000 minutes at right-back while Vidal didn't even break the 1000 minute mark.
On average, Alves made almost 4 tackles per game, and combining that number with the other two major defensive categories, interceptions and clearances, Alves made 6,6 such plays per game. Vidal, meanwhile, barely reached half that, only 3,5. While that could be a reason for worry for Barcelona fans, as it could spell danger for the Catalans defensively, but as the infographic above shows, while Vidal made less good plays in high pressure defensive situations, he also made less mistakes on those plays. And making a mistake when the opponent has a scoring opportunity often leads to a goal.
Whether or not Vidal becomes Alves' long-term heir at right-back remains to be seen. But it is certainly possible as showcased by the Spaniards marauding performance against Fiorentina in the Europa League Semi-Final when he netted a brace and provided an assist, but Vidal now faces a long wait until January before he'll even be able to take the pitch for Barcelona in official capacity.