Barcelona battler Arturo Vidal leads list of stars searching for more minutes

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No footballer dreams of a place on the substitutes’ bench.

This is especially the case for stellar names, who’ve endured either a dramatic decline in standing or stalled development during the early months. of 2018/19.

Here, Sport360 highlights the players who’ve experienced campaigns to forget.

VINICIUS JUNIOR

Club: Real Madrid

La Liga minutes: 29

A mythical figure was introduced to the Madrid set-up this summer.

Vinicus was the boy wonder from Brazil, always one of football’s most-alluring prospects. He, supposedly, boasted magical technique, boundless enthusiasm and a daring eye for the spectacular.

With Cristiano Ronaldo out the exit door, the stage was set for a spectacular rise. Instead, a disappearing act under the doomed Julen Loetegui sparked whispers and rumours.

The lesser-spotted Vinicius was utilised for just 12 minutes in the top flight by the ex-Spain boss, before his doomed tenure ended in the wake of October 28’s El Clasico humiliation at Barcelona.

Time spent with Santiago Solari at the Castilla during this trying period has allowed for a change of fate.

The 18-year-old got two assists upon the Argentine’s debut against minnows Melilla in the Copa del Rey, fortuitously forced the breakthrough in the trying 2-0 La Liga triumph against Real Valladolid and got an assist in the Champions League at Viktoria Plzen.

FBL-EUR-C1-REAL MADRID-PLZEN

DANIELE RUGANI

Club: Juventus

Serie A minutes: 180

Breaking apart the fabled Juventus defence is one of football’s toughest orders.

That can be both for the opposition attack, or any understudy to Giorgio Chiellini and – the rehired – Leonardo Bonucci.

The staccato progression of Rugani is case in point.

Comparisons – not always justified, admittedly – have been banded around for years about the Old Lady having the ‘next Alessandro Nesta’ on their hands.

Blessed with a rare precision on the ball and a composure beyond his 24 years, he would be a regular starter at most other clubs in Europe.

Instead, the ex-Empoli starlet’s 2018/19 in Serie A reads: two starts and nine times as an unused substitute.

For comparison, Bonucci has made 10 starts and Chiellini seven. Minus the former being ignored for his instant return to AC Milan, they are locked in as first choice.

Rugani even significantly trails Mehdi Benatia’s 450 minutes across five starts. A lack of desire last summer to join countryman Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea could cause regret.

Italy Training Session And Press conference

ERIC BAILLY

Club: Manchester United

Premier League minutes: 201

The prospect of Bailly turning into an error-prone, irrelevant centre-back at Old Trafford seemed impossible two years ago.

A bombastic figure appeared to have been introduced to the United squad in the early months of 2016/17. Bailly oozed belief and raw ability – now, he just collects splinters on the sidelines after a, frankly abysmal, start to this trying season.

Bailly disintegrated in August 19’s 3-2 defeat at Brighton & Hove Albion, didn’t start again until September 25’s penalty-shootout reversal against the Championship’s Derby County and hasn’t been seen since 19 egregious minutes against Newcastle United saw him hauled off in disorder.

The Ivory Coast international appears to be getting rawer with age, rather than more refined. This could be because his maverick ways jar with the dogmatic Jose Mourinho, or this rapid decline could be the work of a ruinous set of injuries ever since he was snapped up from Villarreal.

Either way, he’s currently way behind Victor Lindelof and Chris Smalling in the Old Trafford pecking order.

Burnley FC v Manchester United - Premier League

ARTURO VIDAL

Club: Barcelona

La Liga minutes: 238

Barcelona supporters never grew enamoured with power house Paulinho and his prosaic skill set.

This is why the, effective, swap that saw the Brazil midfielder sent back to Guangzhou Evergrande and Bayern Munich’s Arturo Vidal drafted in was hailed at Camp Nou. The Chile superstar’s reputation far outstretches his predecessor.

But Paulinho contributed nine goals across 34 La Liga appearances in his one season at Barca, becoming a familiar face in the champions’ XI (21 top-flight starts, compared to 13 substitute appearances and two times as an unused replacement).

These already look like figures the disenchanted Vidal will struggle to match. His current tally with the Catalans in La Liga reads two starts, seven walk-ons and three times as an unused replacement.

Angry social media posts have not helped the Chile superstar’s integration as frustration has boiled over for the €20 million purchase.

The rapid acclimitisation of Brazil prospect Arthur has been the – far – older player’s undoing. A route to more regular minutes appears unlikely.

FC Barcelona v PSV - UEFA Champions League Group B

JAMES RODRIGUEZ

Club: Bayern Munich

Bundesliga minutes: 472

Unfamiliar disorder and disappointment at Bayern Munich has swept aside one of South America’s grandest players.

Colombia playmaker James Rodriguez has been named on the substitutes’ bench (six) more times than he has started (five) in the 2018/19 Bundesliga. For someone who boasts such divine vision and supreme manipulation of the ball, this state of play appears utterly incongruous.

Despite these gifts, new head coach Niko Kovac is not a fan.

Calf problems dogged Rodriguez’s World Cup 2018 and were carried over into pre-season. It took until September 22’s 2-0 win at Schalke – in which he headed in the opener and won a penalty for the second – for the 27-year-old to make his first top-flight start.

This state of play has seen rumours grow about Bayern cooling interest in turning a two-season loan into a permanent deal, at the end of 2018/19.

Damage to knee ligaments last week now mean Rodriguez should not kick a ball again until the new year.

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Joachim Low plans to bring through new generation after Nations League disappointment

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Joachim Low's job as Germany manager is hanging by a thread.

Joachim Low intends to give youth a chance in the European Championship qualifiers following a miserable past few months in charge of Germany.

Die Mannschaft followed up a limp defence of their World Cup crown, in which they exited at the group stages in Russia over the summer, by being relegated from the top tier of European countries in the Nations League.

The Netherlands’s 2-0 victory over world champions France on Friday confirmed Germany’s demotion from Group 1 of League A and Low has already turned his attentions towards Euro 2020.

First, though, his side will attempt to end this year on a high note on Monday when they face the Dutch, who can finish top of the group by avoiding defeat in Gelsenkirchen.

The Germany head coach said in quotes on www.dfb.de: “The Netherlands deserved their win against the world champions.

“For us, the feeling is obviously quite bitter since we now no longer have chance to stay in League A. We have to accept that.

“Our focus however is now like it was before – solely on qualifying for the European Championship, where we want to send a strong team out.

“With this in mind we will have lots of room to allow young players to come in and for them to get more and more experience with the national team.

“In this year, which overall has been very disappointing for us, we want to put on a good show for the fans on Monday in Gelsenkirchen.”

Liverpool pair Vigil van Dijk and Georginio Wijnaldum struck either side of Memphis Depay’s goal as the Netherlands cruised to a 3-0 victory over Germany in Amsterdam last month.

The Dutch failed to qualify for the World Cup, but have bloomed since Ronald Koeman took charge in February and will qualify for the Nations League Finals next June if they collect a point in western Germany.

Koeman knows his side’s recent progress means they will have a target on their backs.

He said in quotes on De Telegraaf: “There will be a bad game or a bad result for this team, but we know what is being asked to win against the best countries and that is something that everyone should be aware of.

“It is then up to the staff if players think differently and do what is necessary.”

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Harry Kane is among big guns who return to England XI for Croatia clash

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Gareth Southgate recalled his big-hitters for England’s crunch Nations League clash with Croatia at Wembley.

Three Lions captain Harry Kane returned in attack, supported by Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford – who were also on the bench for Thursday’s 3-0 friendly win over the United States.

Jordan Pickford retained his place in goal as Ben Chilwell and Fabian Delph also kept their spots in Southgate’s side.

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