Aleix Vidal during the interview with Barça Magazine / MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB

The story of Aleix Vidal and FC Barcelona is not exactly one of love at first sight. It has been more of a long distance one that did not go too well at the beginning. It has taken a journey of 13 years and twelve different teams to finally get back together.

It all began back in 2001 when Vidal was just eleven years of age as he joined Barça’s U12s. Jordi Alba was one of his teammates when he arrived from CF Valls, based just seven kilometres from his native Puigpelat.

“In my town, there was only one football pitch, made of concrete“ he told BARÇA MAGAZINE in an exclusive interview. “But we never used to play there. We would play in the plaza, in front of a door. When you’re a kid, anything will do.”

Things were not easy for the youngster, as he felt out of place in the team. “Not anymore, but back then it was believed that the club needed bigger and taller players,” he says, explaining one of his motives behind leaving the Barcelona academy.

I’m a fighter and will never throw in the towel

In the following years would come many challenges. His next team was Cambrils, where he attracted the interest of Real Madrid.

“Someone connected with Madrid saw me, I had a trial and they signed me” he explains. “It was my first experience far from home. I lived for just a year there in one of the club’s residences. From the first moment, I knew that it would be almost impossible to succeed at Madrid.”

It was a difficult season for Vidal, being used as a wide player despite having always played as a forward until then. “I wasn’t playing much and I spoke to my father about returning home” he reveals. “Madrid wanted me to stay so they offered jobs to my parents. But I thought it would be better for me and my family for them to stay where they were. It wasn’t necessary to make that sacrifice. It wasn’t worth moving the whole family.”

Life beyond football

After Madrid would come a spell in Reus’ youth ranks. It was during this time that Vidal dedicated his free time to training to become an electrician and a plumber. He explains that “I was never a fan of studying and in in those trades young people don’t earn a lot of money and you have to search for alternatives to be able to do the things you enjoy.” Fortunately, football handed him a new opportunity.

He was handed playing time in Reus’ first team, who were then competing in the fourth tier of Spanish football, and ended up being signed by Espanyol. From there, he was loaned to Damm and a year later joined Greek side Panthrakikos, his first experience playing at a top flight club. By this time, he was 17 years old and at his eighth team.

“It wasn’t a top division like the ones here but that experience, despite not playing much and living alone again, helped to make me more mature,” he said of his time in Greece.

In 2009, Vidal decided not to continue at Espanyol after being loaned out for two consecutive seasons. He was awaiting a better offer but ended up at Pobla de Mafumet, the Gimnastic Tarragona feeder club. “I have to be very grateful to Santi Coch, the Pobla manager” he admits.,”Because he waited for me and made a great effort to get me. I was waiting for something better to come up, but it wasn’t to be.”

It was a good year for him, and he remembers how “I had some good games and I ended up training and playing for Nastic in the second division, which is a very tough league.” Unfortunately, he suffered another setback after being left out of the first team the following season.

Now I am here and it is impossible to reach any higher

Nevertheless, his hard work all of those years would be rewarded. He joined Mallorca B where he had another good year, before heading for Almeria where he would make the most significant step of his career. “When they called me, I knew it was for me to play for the B team” he recalls. “But I asked them if I could do the preseason with the first team.”

He asked for just once chance, and it was one that he was determined not to waste. “In football, there are always exceptions, but you usually need one person to have confidence in you” he says. “In my case it was Lucas Alcaraz, with whom I had a connection from the first day. If it were not for him, I wouldn’t be where I am today.” He only played one game for Almeria B, and he scored twice. His long-awaited step up was just around the corner.

He would go on to be a key player in the Almeria side that gained promotion to the First Division. And then last season, Vidal became a European champion with Sevilla, his twelfth team, before returning to Barcelona.

“It took a lot of hard work to get here. It required a lot of strength” he concludes. “But if you constantly work and believe in yourself, it is possible. I’m a fighter and I never throw in the towel, despite passing through a number of lesser-known clubs. Now I am here and I believe it is impossible to reach any higher.”