Aleix Vidal got his first goal as an FC Barcelona player in the Catalans’ 5-0 triumph over UD Las Palmas, but that was just the cherry on top.
Vidal has been in formidable form as of late, albeit mostly against limited opposition. But this was perhaps his biggest test since his start in a 2-1 loss to Deportivo Alavés, a match in which his performance was widely panned.
After that performance, Luis Enrique benched him, almost for good. Sergi Roberto owned the right fullback spot. Worse for Vidal, the coach opted to change the formation when Roberto needed a rest rather than give him time, often excluding him from the matchday squad altogether.
Rumors circled that Vidal was on his way out this transfer window, with Darijo Srna primed to be his replacement.
But Vidal’s commitment was nothing to scoff at, and he made the most of limited opportunities to get back on Lucho’s good graces. The coach still had enough faith in him to give him a start against Las Palmas, a team in the top half of the table.
Vidal passed the test in flying colors, and viewed within the context of encouraging performances against the likes of Borussia Mönchengladbach, there’s reason to think the right-back has earned a spot in the Barcelona squad.
And Vidal’s goal - the fifth one - was an emotional moment.
It was assisted by Paco Alcácer, of all people, and once it hit the back of the net, Vidal nearly cried. The bench and his teammates congratulated him. He grasped onto the Barcelona emblem.
He may, with time, even threaten Sergi Roberto’s starting job. Vidal has more speed than Roberto, and if he can improve on other facets such as passing and defending, who knows?
Then again, Luis Enrique may have his mind made up. His thought process is not one that’s always easy to understand from outside. Srna may still replace Vidal. It’s tough to guess, but Vidal has at least increased his chances of staying.