Daniel Alves de Silva will be hoping to be part of another team that wins the Champions League. The final will be staged in Cardiff on Saturday June 3rd. It could be one last hurrah for a deep thinking man whose skills ensured he was able to leave his native Brazil and enjoy a life far removed from working on a farm with his father.
There has been plenty of praise for how his current club, Juventus, knocked Barcelona out of the competition. For eight years Alves wore the Barca shirt with distinction. Love him (I did) or loathe him, you could not miss him in that Barcelona shirt.
I thought, writes Vernon Grant, that Luis Enrique was crazy to let Alves leave Barcelona. I believe the lack of steel in the Barcelona defence this season has proved me right. True, Alves was not getting any younger, but I’d have in my squad any day of the week.
In the first leg of their quarter-final meeting, Juventus won the home tie against Barcelona 3-0. In the second leg, Juventus kept a clean sheet at Camp Nou. It was a professional display of defending the likes of which my generation has grown accustomed to witnessing when Italian sides go into European or World competitions.
Dani Alves, as everyone knows him, was part of the Barcelona side that proved almost impossible to beat during those glory years when Pep Guardiola was the manager. It could have all been so different. Go back in time to the summer of 2006 and Sevilla had agreed to sell Alves to Liverpool. But the asking price of £8 million was considered to be too much by Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez.
I’ve watched Dani Alves play for Barcelona since he signed for them in 2008. Many thought the club had lost its mind for paying Sevilla over 32 million Euros for a right back. Turns out, Dani boy was a bargain. In his first season with Barcelona the club won the treble. Umpteen medals and trophies would follow during a glorious eight years with the club. Those were the days.
Having dumped his former club out of the competition, Alves and Juventus now go into a two leg semi-final against Monaco. Whether or not he is in the starting eleven for those matches, we’ll have to wait to see. But I feel sure he’ll be influential, in the dressing room and on the pitch. His vast experience at this level of football is surely a plus to a team I hope goes all the way. After all, at odds of 16/5, I backed them to do so prior to the quarter-final second leg at Barcelona.
Back in March, Dani Alves spoke with Sid Lowe for a fascinating article in The Guardian. The content surprised many readers. I’d long known that Dani Alves was a deep thinking man. That he was about much more than tasty tackles and shiny silverware.
What follows, in quotation marks, are some of the highlights of that enlightening interview.
Earlier in his career, when playing at Sevilla, Alves argued with the then coach who insisted that Alves should stop racing forward into attack.
Alves told Sid Lowe: “The full back couldn’t go beyond halfway. I said: ‘Why not?’ “Football is defend-attack, defend-attack…or attack-defend, attack-defend. Football has no limits, no rules. If you do the same as all the rest, you’re the same as all the rest: I don’t want to be just another player.
“What is defend? That no one ever dribbles or attacks? Bloody hell, football would be boring, wouldn’t it? What’s football for? To win. The winner isn’t (just) the team that defends incredibly.
“Bloody hell, without defending well, without attacking well, without being able to deliver a decent cross…Imagine if I’d been any good!
“Write a list of players who have been at Barcelona and how long they have lasted. Players come and go. That doesn’t mean they are bad; they’re beasts but at Barcelona it’s not enough to be beasts. With all those defects, bad as I am, I’m the foreigner with the second most Barcelona games ever. Only Leo’s above me. If I’ve played all of that, I can’t only have defects, I must have some qualities too. I know people don’t talk about that, I know the majority don’t like me. Well, maybe not the majority but a huge number, definitely.
“I can’t stop people thinking I’m a gilipollas” (dickhead).
“Praise? Everyone’s ready to hear nice things. But to hear bad things? See how you react. I’m always under the microscope. People think I’m mad, that I say things for the sake of it, that it’s all nonsense, crazy. But, no, it’s not: I think about it. When the consequences come, I’m ready. I just carry on.
“I try to improve; people don’t believe me but I do. I use criticism for that: what would become of me without it? If people only praised me, it would debilitate me. I laugh at some of it but I take note too. You can think criticism meaningless but there comes a point when there must be something there, and that makes you think.
“What is true is that I won’t change my philosophy, because I’d become bitter. If you live your life by what others say, it stops being your life. I enjoy life and the thing I treasure most is: I don’t hurt anybody. I know people can be offended sometimes, but I’m not trying to hurt anyone. That’s never my intention. There’s no maliciousness.
“When I talk about energy, happiness, joy, that’s applicable to life. I try to make people take that on; I hope to be contagious. Don’t be bitter: the world’s already bitter enough, it’s already self destructing. I want that positive energy to reach people.
“I can’t sing, but I sing. There’s a phrase: quien canta, sus males espanta (he who sings sings his troubles away) So, I sing. Because I like to, because I don’t like to be surrounded by shit. I like happiness and when people try to destroy that, it winds me up. People think the life I lead, being well paid, is the reason I’m like this. No. I was happier when I lived in the countryside with my dad than I often am now. Why? Because I didn’t know how prostituted the world is.
“Everyone’s on their phone, no one talks to anyone, they’re all looking down (at social media), seeing what others are saying about them. (But) the more you know the world today, the more it disappoints. I don’t understand why everyone fights for power, money, fame. Has no one stopped to think that fame is shit? That the more money you have, the more problems?
“Rich isn’t having lots of money; rich is having loads of things in your head.”
“Everyone wants, wants, wants…and when they have, they feel desperate. Money’s a necessary evil, there to give you moments. It gives me things I couldn’t have, nice things, but happiness? That’s not a question of money and fame. Quite the opposite. If you’re famous, people are there: ‘look look, the famous guy.'”
“People talk about famous people and normal people. ‘Normal’? Can’t we all be normal? I love my professions, I live for football, for my team, my team-mates. If I only thought about myself, I’d be no use.”
Alves has long been proud to captain Brazil. He’ll soon celebrate his 34th birthday. He knows his days as a player are numbered. So what next?
He told Sid Lowe it would not be coaching: “No, no! My only concern is, in some small way, leaving a legacy for children, give something back. I don’t know how but maybe I can show them that if you want something you have to fight for it, that your energy can carry you.
“Maybe there’s a way of telling the curious story of the boy who left behind a life where he had nothing, nothing at all, in a tiny town that’s not even on most maps, and ended up at the best club in the history of football.”
“The only thing I don’t want is for football to retire me; I decide. One day: ‘that’s it.’ Don’t expect (reports) saying: Dani announces this will be his last season.’ No.”
“I don’t want football to say: ‘thanks, Dani, but you’re no use any more’. No, no. When I go, I’ll go, saying: ‘thanks very much for everything, football: thanks for the opportunity and thanks for the incredible journey we’ve been on together.”
With a Champions League final appearance beckoning, that journey has yet to reach its final destination.