Vidal and EPL made for each other
Big guns can all make use of Chilean's weapons of midfield destruction
Arturo Vidal doesn't look like the boy next door, unless the boy next door runs a meth lab.
With the tattoos, the beard, the wild eyes and the spindly mohawk, the Chilean midfielder is a gritty Netflix drama waiting to happen.
But, behind the intimidating and fearless facade is, of course, a tough, intimidating and fearless footballer.
Vidal is a monster disguised as a monster.
Goalkeeper Claudio Bravo made three saves to get Chile into the Confederations Cup final, but Vidal got his countrymen to the penalty shoot-out which they won 3-0 against Portugal yesterday morning (Singapore time), following a goalless affair.
For 120 minutes plus one ferocious penalty conversion, Vidal was the leading architect in Portugal's downfall.
Speculation continues to surround Alexis Sanchez's future in the English Premier League, but Vidal's uncompromising performance raises a more intriguing question: Why aren't EPL clubs fighting to sign the last of the Mohicans?
Vidal is made for those wet Wednesday nights in Stoke.
Claudio is extraordinary. He told us before the penalties that he was going to stop two or three.Arturo Vidal revealing what goalkeeper Claudio Bravo had told him before the penalty shoot-out
He's positively calibrated for English football's box-to-box heroics and histrionics.
He's a popular and important character at Bayern Munich, no doubt, but the manner in which he attacked Portugal like a pit bull tearing at a rag doll's throat is precisely the kind of thing that Jose Mourinho covets at Manchester United.
Mourinho seems ready to rekindle his old relationship with Nemanja Matic, but United, Arsenal, Liverpool and even Chelsea (particularly if Matic leaves) could all make use of Vidal's weapons of midfield destruction.
Indeed, his showing in the semi-final only underlined what those clubs are missing.
Injuries forced Portugal coach Fernando Santos to pick a bolder, younger midfield that was heavy on artistry but light on aggression.
Andre Silva, Bernardo Silva and Andre Gomes are all in their early 20s and are expected to take the baton from Cristiano Ronaldo, Ricardo Quaresma and Luis Nani once the sun sets on Portugal's golden generation.
But the kids were not all right against Vidal and fellow terriers Marcelo Diaz and Gary Medel. They were troubled, then traumatised and then mostly substituted as Santos sought to stem the bleeding.
Vidal cut loose like a fox in a henhouse.
Portugal should have seen him coming or, at the very least, stole a glance at his resume.
From Bayer Leverkusen to Bayern Munich, via Juventus, the 30-year-old has annexed the centre circle for the best part of a decade, picking up six domestic titles in Italy and Germany.
He remains the muscular fulcrum of a Chilean side that have been together for almost 10 years, reaching two World Cups and winning the Copa America in 2015 and 2016.
The South Americans are practically designed in Vidal's image. He's an overworked, unheralded hero in a superstar team largely shorn of superstars.
In extra time, both Chile and Portugal threatened to succumb to post-season exhaustion. They were done. There was nothing left to give.
But Vidal didn't get the memo from his battered limbs.
He had played every minute of Chile's Confederations Cup campaign and yet still smashed his penalty past Rui Patricio, attacking the ball as if it had somehow offended him.
When they were together at Juventus, Andrea Pirlo was credited as smoothening the Chilean enforcer's rough edges to sculpt a more elegant footballer.
Certainly, Vidal doesn't always get enough credit for cultivating chances, rather than stopping them.
In the second half, he sent a header and a powerful strike over the bar and hit a post in the dying moments of extra time. His thumping, 20-metre effort was inches away from ending the contest.
His dominance in possession clearly irritated the Portuguese, culminating with William Carvalho's yellow card for a late foul on Vidal.
Sanchez continues to monopolise headlines, but only Vidal monopolised the match.
His dogged style of play may lack the aesthetic appeal of other midfield contemporaries and he clearly enjoys looking like the third villain on the left in a Marvel movie, but he's the major reason for his nation's third international final in as many years.
His indomitable resilience runs through the Chilean side. He lifts his teammates. He pushes and inspires them to be greater than the sum of their parts.
It's a precious commodity in English football.
Vidal's persistence put his side in the final. But it should also put him in the EPL shop window.