Top teams need top strikers. At least that’s what everyone says. Barcelona have proved over the past few weeks that without Lionel Messi, they’re not at the same level. Of course, the Argentine record-breaker is the best in the world, but ask any Manchester United fan who’s won them the League, and they’ll tell you Robin Van Persie. Would Napoli be as dangerous a side without Edinson Cavani? Are Atletico Madrid top three material if Radamel Falcao is out? Goals win you games, and poachers get you points.
How then, are Juventus on the verge of winning back-to-back Scudetti for the first time in a decade? A striking roster that includes Fabio Quagliarella, Mirko Vucinic, Alessandro Matri and Nicklas Bendtner isn’t the sort that gives defenders nightmares, and yet, the Bianconeri have never looked like ceding their League lead. They’ve been searching for that man for at least 18 months now, but so far he’s been missing from an often blunt attack. Supporters will hope Fernando Llorente, who joins from Athletic Bilbao on a free over the summer, is that 30-goal-a-season-striker, but in the meantime the task of putting the ball in the back of the net has fallen to one player.
Not one Juve man has made double figures, but it’s the player joint-top of the charts with nine that Antonio Conte really has to thank for the saunter to the Scudetto. Arturo Vidal has been exceptional this term and has almost single-handedly carried the Turin giants towards silverware.
Just four more strikes in 2012-13 will see the Chile international become the club’s leading goalscoring midfielder in a single season. Rui Barros has the current record with 12, but with four games to go, and in his current form, who would bet against Vidal beating that?
If last season was the year that Andrea Pirlo came to the fore and showed the world he was the man to lead Juve to title success, then this term it’s been the 25-year-old from Santiago who has been the leading light in midfield and inside the penalty box.
Match-winning performances against Catania in October and more recently against Lazio, Milan and in the derby with Torino have seen the Old Lady surge clear of their nearest rivals and romp to yet another title.
Vidal has teamed vision, passion, technical class and assured finishing to prove himself as one of the best players in Europe – and that’s put him straight in the shop window for some of the biggest clubs on the continent. Bayern Munich are said to be interested. Manchester United have been heavily linked with a move. Real Madrid are also reportedly circling.
The player has insisted that the Juventus Stadium will be his home for a while yet. “I’m happy here,” he told reporters last week. “I’m proud to wear this shirt and I want to continue like this. I’m calm about my future.
“The Coach has helped me a lot. He’s always explained things to me and told me how he wanted me to play. I know the history of Juventus. They were the strongest side a few years ago and I knew we would be that again.
“I have some really strong teammates playing by my side and that is why we have won. There is great harmony on and off the pitch. Juventus have what is needed to take on anybody. We certainly have what is needed to win the Scudetto and Champions League.
“This is the strongest side in Italy. I’m here and I want to stay for some time so that I can continue winning in this shirt.”
With Vidal committed to the cause, and with his peak years just around the corner, Juventus have a player who can guide them to success at home and abroad.