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What a difference a year makes.

Almost 14 months after signing with FC Barcelona — despite knowing he'd have to sit out the first half of the season through no fault of his own — Aleix Vidal is as enthusiastic as ever.

"It was more complicated [last year] than now, but I've always believed in myself," Vidal told a troupe of journalists on Wednesday tat St. George's Park.

When queried about his chances of getting more playing time this year in light of the absence of Dani Alves, who moved on after eight seasons at Barça, Vidal was realistic. 

"Alves not being here makes it a bit easier because he was in front of me, but the challenge now is to be the same as or better than before," he said.

"We're both trying to win a spot and that's something that the coach will decide."

And this season, Vidal can hit the ground running.

MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB

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