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Juventus’ Dani Alves
By Ben McAleer – @BenMcAleer1
Friday, May 19, 2017
After Dani Alves bagged the opener in Juventus’ Coppa Italia final win over Lazio, many took to Twitter to rightly dub the experienced full-back the greatest ever free signing.
The Brazilian moved to Turin last summer after he was bizarrely allowed to leave the Blaugrana for free following eight successful years at Camp Nou, and it’s fair to say that Barcelona are far worse off without him, even at 34 years of age. Juventus are on the cusp of a historic treble in part courtesy of Alves. He provided two crucial assists against Monaco for a Gonzalo Higuain brace in France, before rattling in a first-half volley against the recently crowned Ligue 1 champions in the return leg.
Having set Juventus on their way to domestic glory on Wednesday night, Alves now has 32 major winners’ medals to his name – and there is a very real chance he will add 33 and 34 before the month is out. The Old Lady is just two wins away from Serie A and Champions League success following the 2-0 win at the Stadio Olimpico in midweek, and with it comes the possibility of writing themselves into the history books.
Without Alves, though, this would likely have not been possible. When the deal was announced to bring the right-back to Italy, it was in a position where Juventus perhaps did not need to strengthen. Stephen Lichtsteiner is hardly the worst player in the position, while Juan Cuadrado had already been at the club for a year on loan. Yet, in Alves, Juventus landed arguably the best in his position in the modern game. Granted, many may suggest Philipp Lahm for the honour, but Alves is undoubtedly the prime example of the modern day full-back.
“He is the best full-back in the world. It is very difficult nowadays to find someone else like him,” Lionel Messi said of Alves back in 2015. Two years later and you’d be hard pressed to find better. It’s no wonder Messi widely praised Alves two years ago, with the latter registering 55 assists between August 2009 and the season he left. 24 of those were for Messi, with the partnership between the pair crucial in Barcelona’s success of the period Alves was there.
This does little but highlight Alves’ immense attacking ability. Granted, a team of Barcelona’s stature was rarely going to be troubled, but their sheer dominance allowed Alves to act almost as though he was an auxiliary winger, rather than a full-back. In the process, Barcelona overawed opponents on the right, with Messi cutting infield and Alves exploiting the space left behind. Max Allegri has since looked to maximise the Brazilian’s attacking credentials, which he is doing so excellently.
On a number of occasions this season, Alves has been deployed as a wing-back or on the right wing in order to help hurt opponents. This has been best exhibited in the Champions League, where Alves (30) is second to Toni Kroos (31) for key passes and top for accurate crosses from open play (21). Yet, when required, Alves is one to carry out the necessary defensive duties, as 32 tackles in Europe’s elite club competition – one of the highest returns in the Champions League – shows.
What’s more is that 3.1 tackles per 90 ranks highly of players to make 15 or more appearances in Serie A this season, with Alves’ athleticism shining through time and time again. While a number of right-backs have impressed over time, Alves has been playing consistently at the top of his game for the best part of a decade. As far as archetypal right-backs go in the current state of football, any fan would struggle to find better than Alves, if we’re being perfectly candid.
While once a player who was prone to mistakes, there is no denying that Alves has rounded his game to the ideal level that will see him go down as one of – if not the – best in his position. A Serie A and Champions League winners’ medal in the coming weeks would do little but to further solidify his placing among the elite.