If any player has all the hallmarks of a ‘typical’ Barcelona signing, then it has to be Dani Alves.
With the potential of being to right back what Roberto Carlos was to left back, Dani Alves has the lot – pace in abundance, aggression, skill, attitude and seemingly limitless energy. Who needs a right winger when Alves is playing right back?
Born in Juazeiro in Brazil in 1983, Daniel Alves da Silva first came to the notice of European eyes whilst playing for Brazil in the 2003 FIFA World Youth Championships. Sevilla snapped Dani up from his first professional club, Esporte Clube Bahía, and, during season 2003/04 he really began to shine in Spanish football. As part of the Sevilla side that won the UEFA Cup in consecutive seasons, Dani Alves began to develop his reputation as a tough tackling, marauding full back. In fact, in 175 career games for the Andalucian side, Alves scored 11 goals – not bad for someone who didn’t take the penalties.
After the 2006/07 season, Chelsea appeared to be on the brink of signing Alves – at least they thought they were. They reckoned without Sevilla’s powerful and idiosyncratic president, José María Del Nido, who took exception to Chelsea’s methods and insisted on holding out for a transfer fee that even Chelsea thought was too high. Much to the player’s annoyance at the time, Alves started the following season an unwilling Sevilla player. There then followed one of those ‘if he doesn’t like it he can stay in the reserves for the season’ comments that presidents love to make and the relationship between club and player appeared irrevocably destroyed.
The tragic death of team mate Antonio Puerta, however, put things in perspective for all the parties concerned and Alves went on to make 33 league appearances for Sevilla, in what turned out to be his final season for them.
When he did leave, in the summer of 2008, as the world’s most expensive right back for a potential total fee of EUR35 million, Alves left Sevilla in tears with the memorable phrase that he arrived at the club a boy, but was leaving it as a man.
Watching Alves play for Barcelona now, it is hard to imagine him playing for any other team. His exuberant style completely fits into his new surroundings. He does appear to be in defence one second and in attack the next and his tireless enthusiasm quickly won over the local supporters. In seemingly no time at all, he developed an intuitive relationship with Lionel Messi that sees them linking on the right flank and mesmerising the opposition.
Now fully established in the Brazilian national team – he scored one of the three goals in the team that won the Copa America in 2007, Dani Alves can perhaps claim to be the best attacking right back in modern world football.