FAVOURITE PLAYER: DANIEL ALVES DA SILVA
By a strange turn of events, the Metronome found himself closest to the goal, about 35 yards away almost dead centre of the goal. He thought of going to his left but found no favourable runner. He turned right and spotted the Flea some 7 paces away to his south east. Ever the tiki taka disciple La Pulga made himself available for the give and go but from the corner of his eye the Chronographer had spotted the Samba energizer bunny beyond the halfway line.
The aforementioned turn of events included a disputed offside decision but neither the referee blew his whistle nor the linesman flagged. The defenders were waving their hands and were more static than usual expecting the play to stop. Noticing that nothing was forthcoming, the Energizer bunny having spotted his spotter, i.e. the Metronome, flew down the wing. The ball possessor took four paces to his right, drew the full back and his marker closer and threaded the ball through at just the right pace.
Samba bunny without breaking a stride took the ball closer to the 6 yard box with his first touch and blasted the ball into the bottom far corner with his second. The whole sequence took about 7 seconds. The full back had run about 50 yards in approximately 6 seconds after spotting Xavi. The whole episode perfectly epitomizes Dani Alves’ athleticism, intelligence and skill. Indubitably, the Brazilian Energizer bunny has been a vital cog in the most successful era of FC Barcelona.
A farmer’s son from the Brazilian footballing backwaters of Bahia, Alves was brought to Europe, still in his teens, by that great talent spotter of Andalusia, Monchi. A talented youth class (Reyes, Sergio Ramos, Jesus Navas, Antonio Puerta) and some exceptionally shrewd and largely cheap signings (Keita, Adriano, Fabiano, Baptista, Kanoute) meant that Sevilla kept improving season after season. Alves’ stock kept rising but took off after Juande Ramos became manager in 2005. In a team filled with talented players, Ramos built the side unusually around the right back instead of the conventional striker/trequartista/winger.
Sevilla finished 6th for the second season and in a row and won the UEFA cup in grand style beating Middlesborough. Boro had ridden their luck in beating Basel (lost 0-2 away & trailed 0-1 at home) and the 1986 European champions Steaua (lost 0-1 away & trailed 0-2 at home) twice needing 4 goals at home in slightly more than a half but the luck ran out in Eindhoven as the Rojiblancos crushed Boro 4-0.
The next season began with Alves’ stunning choke on the then world’s best player Ronaldinho in the UEFA Super Cup. Ronaldinho had revolutionized Barcelona in the preceding two years. Though he had had an underwhelming world cup in Germany, he had arrived as European champion in Monaco. Alves proceeded to mark his compatriot out of the game and, along with the lightning quick Jesus Navas, terrorized the Blaugrana left wing all night long. Sevilla went close to winning their 2nd La Liga title, 61 years after winning their first.
With just 2 games to go, Sevilla were in 3rd place with 70 points, 2 points behind Madrid & Barcelona. Barcelona hosted their crosstown rivals Espanyol and Real Madrid made a 300+ km to Zaragoza. An eighteen second interval that was remembered once again when Espanyol once again visited Camp Nou a couple of weeks back actually masked the fact that had Sevilla beaten Mallorca they would have also been tied on 73 points but alas the Andalusians could manage just a scoreless draw. Even though they were in contention for the title on the last week mathematically, they were beaten by El Submarino Amarillo to end the season in 3rd place, their best finish in 37 years.
Sevilla had also completed a cup double of the UEFA cup and the Copa del Rey. They were just one or two results here and there away from winning a lesser treble of league, cup and UEFA cup with a fraction of the resources (budget ~30 million) of the national giants Real Madrid (>300 million) and Barcelona(>200 million). The star man was of course the right full back Daniel Alves da Silva. Apart from his 7 goals (an exceptionally high number for a defender), Alves also contributed 16 assists more than twice as much as 2nd placed Jesus Navas (7) & Luis Fabiano (7).
Excluding Segunda division titles, Sevilla’s last trophy was the Copa del Rey in 1948. Led by Alves, the red & white half of Seville won 5 trophies in the 6 years he spent in hot and sunny Andalusia. Monchi’s wizardry in the transfer market has ensured that Sevilla have added 3 more trophies to their kitty but it was the farmer’s kid from Bahia who got them underway to their most successful decade.
Benitez wanted to sign Alves after Sevilla’s 1st UEFA cup but Rick Parry apparently balked at the £8 million price tag. Chelsea also weren’t ready to pay €30 million for a defender. Barcelona were in a rut and wanted to refresh their side paid €32.5 million without blinking an eye and it is an investment that has been worth its weight in gold. Alves also was one of the earliest signings of a line of Sevilla players (Keita, Adriano, Rakitic) who have had excellent careers in Barcelona.
What is there to be said about Dani Alves at Camp Nou? His flying runs down the wing. His 74 assists out of the 100 (only Figo & Messi have more) in Spain. His telepathic understanding with Messi on the pitch and the brotherly relation off the pitch. No one has assisted Messi more than the Brazilian energizer bunny. His eight years in Catalonia have been an absolute joy for not only Barcelona fans but football fans all around the world. His playful demeanour (who can forget him chasing Thiago Messi all around Camp Nou last year) and frank talk (the infamous interview before the 2012 Chelsea semifinal and last year’s “one foot, half a body and almost my head“) has endeared himself to all his fans.
I have not written about his Barcelona career on purpose because Barcelona are one of the most viewed teams on the planet. I wanted to emphasize his time at Sevilla because not many are aware of just how good he was then. I’d even stick my neck out and say that for all his marauding runs in Camp Nou, he was kind of stifled because of the number of star players in each position. He was even better in his free role, again from right back, where he made Luis Fabiano, Freddie Kanoute, Jesus Navas et al look much much better than they really were.
Alves has found the fountain of youth once again this season after showing signs of aging last time around but he is now 33 years old. There are once again talks of him leaving this season. If he does so all Cules must give him the warmest of sending offs because Daniel Alves has been no less important in Barcelona winning 6 ligas, 3 copas and 3 European than any of Xavi, Iniesta and the di Stefano of Barcelona, Leo Messi.
Dani Alves has been the best right back of this young century so far and is probably in the top 5 full backs of all time and by far the best ever attacking full back. Gracies Dani! You have made the viewing experience of this Cule a fantastic one for nearly a decade.