"No man is ever old enough to know better." —Holbrook Jackson. For Arturo Vidal, this seems to have been his motto since arriving at Inter, as his poor discipline and rash judgment, has hindered rather than help Antonio Conte’s team.
In the empty chasm that is San Siro, the coach has bellowed expletives at the Chilean midfielder, although he does continue to trust him. Is it because Conte believes he is still capable of his best? The Italian media are split, some blaming a lack of pre-season and others simply admitting that it looks like he has had his day. So, which is it?
It was all so different back at Bayern Munich. Back in 2014, Vidal said of himself: "Many try to imitate my style, but I want to say one thing, I'm the best defensive midfielder in the world. No one defends as well as me and scores so many goals."
He was probably right at the time. He certainly has been more than just the warrior that many perceive him as. His ability to break up play in the middle of the pitch was one of his best assets and he has always been physical, although getting booked is nothing new as he has a long history of collecting cards.
Perhaps one appealing qualities for both Bayern and Barcelona was that he was always extremely dangerous when going forward. His energy and determination allowed him to maraud up and down the pitch going from box to box, linking the defence and attack as he did so.
In 2016-17, after Robert Lewandowski and Arjen Robben, he was Bayern’s next top scorer, netting in all four competitions. These goals were often important ones also, helping his team take a lead or being the decisive late strike.
In 2019-20 (not that long ago) he was still doing this for Barcelona. His goals in in this season made him the fourth highest scorer at the club behind Leo Messi (27), Luis Suárez (18) and Antoine Griezmann (15).
Perhaps, the age of Vidal and the fact that it coincided with Inter ending their pursuit of Sandro Tonali, meant that the move was met by many with criticism.
Conte had expressed that he wanted leaders who could "win now" and when Messi was lamenting about how much Vidal's presence has been missed in the dressing room, you many understand why the coach thought he was purchasing something quite different.
Perhaps, Antonio envisaged what he had seen at Barcelona? Only back in July, was the club lauding his effectiveness.
Instead, what fans of the Nerazzurri have been treated to is similar to an Aston Martin with the engine of a lawn mower.
The brakes do not seem to work either as he has been diving into tackles, receiving five yellow cards and one red within 13 starts and five substitute appearances in all competitions.
He gave away the penalty against Crotone that saw the coach berate him from the sidelines and he has been little use in the offensive third. Let us be clear, he is not Inter’s only problem but he seems to represent or somehow define the failures of Conte’s reign.
So what has happened? Since 2017-18, there has been a decline in his performances, but arguably his best season since was the 2019/20 one in Spain.
Whilst there was talk of a rift between Vidal and Ronald Koeman, there was no indication his departure was due to ability, more personality and style. Therefore, the man who won eight league titles in a row in three different countries between 2012 and 2019 turned up in Milan and has failed to impress so far.
Gazzetta dello Sport claimed after Inter’s 6-2 win over Crotone, that Vidal’s poor form was down to a lack of pre-season and that he only turned up in Milan a week before the start of the campaign.
They went so far as to say that he could be like a new signing with some rest. The same paper also reviewed his performance against Sampdoria by saying “A few minutes, a lot of uselessness". So which is it?
Conte certainly seems to have faith in him and that is his prerogative, even if the Chile international was rested against Sampdoria in Inter's first Serie A defeat in the last 12 games on Wednesday. His other ‘older guard’ signings have been mixed, Matteo Darmian has performed well at 31 but Aleksandar Kolarov has been an unmitigated disaster.
You can accept the fouls from Vidal when he is offering the defensive work, the energy and the goals but as of yet, there has only been confusion that could be down to a lack of fitness.
Is Vidal simply in need of rest and preparation? Or, alternatively, are his days numbered and that great engine is finally broken?