Given his relatively short stature, Gary Medel makes for an unlikely central defender. But then again, Medel is one of those players who refuses to set boundaries for himself. Marcelo Bielsa spotted his suitability for the role in the qualifiers for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, noting that his speed, ability to position himself correctly and his gift for covering team-mates made him ideally suited for defensive duties.
Medel had excelled prior to that as a midfielder for the national team and at Universidad Catolica, Boca Juniors and Sevilla, patrolling the space just in front of the central defenders or out on the right. A cornerstone of Chile’s so-called 'golden generation', he played in right midfield in his breakthrough tournament: the FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada 2007. Later that year, he made his international debut under Nelson Acosta in a friendly against Argentina. After taking on the Chile job, Bielsa picked him for the Toulon Tournament and gave him his first start in a World Cup qualifier against Bolivia in La Paz, with Medel scoring both goals in a 2-0 win for Chile. Though he impressed in defence at South Africa 2010, Bielsa’s successor Claudio Borghi chose to deploy Medel in a holding midfield role, instead.
Nicknamed 'Pitbull', Medel returned to the defence under Jorge Sampaoli and distinguished himself in the qualifiers for Brazil 2014, where he played in all four of Chile’s games and after which he moved to Italian giants Internazionale. Medel was instrumental in Chile’s triumphs on home soil at the 2015 Copa America and at the 2016 Copa America Centenario, which were both masterminded by Juan Antonio Pizzi, for whom the combative defender is an undisputed first choice.