The bigger the occasion, the bigger performance from Dani Alves this season, but will the Brazilian be given the chance to shine on the biggest stage of all?
Dani Alves has cemented himself as one of the greatest fullbacks of the 21st century, following his two sensational spells with La Liga sides Sevilla and Barcelona. The veteran has then decided to experience life in Italy, where his transfer to Juventus on a free, is starting to look like a masterstroke. Is the 34-year old still in contention for a spot at the FIFA World Cup?
Dani Alves is by all means one of the most controversial players in world football for many reasons, such as his colourful character, his tendency to speak his mind in front of the media, and his reputation for being a defensive liability. Despite always impressing in Europe, Alves is often accused by Brazil fans of underperforming on national duty – which is why he was, on numerous occasions, the second option behind former Internazionale star Douglas Maicon. On top of that, Daniel has had a very slow start to his time in Serie A, where he seemed defensively vulnerable, while failing to impress the crowd with his offensive contributions.
However, many things have changed since the second half of the season. It all started when the flying fullback was able to rediscover his Barcelona form against none other than Barcelona themselves. Italian tactician Massimiliano Allegri trusted the Brazilian to mark his compatriot Neymar in the Champions League quarter-final tie, and in both legs, it seemed that experience was able to contain younger blood.
For someone who had an increasingly growing reputation of being defensively vulnerable, Alves was able to keep a handle one of the finest attacking talents in the world, keeping him quiet for the majority of the games. When the biggest games of the season came, we saw the best version of the Juventus man.
The situation was not any different when the Italians clashed with AS Monaco in the first-leg of the semi finals in France. Alves stood out as arguably the main man, who led Juve to that all-important away victory, by providing two decisive assists to Argentinian target man, Gonzalo Higuain, raising his overall tally to four goals and eight assists in all competitions this season.
The Bahia academy product has once again proved why big games are the perfect opportunity for the greatest players to steal the spotlight. With the form he is currently showing, Alves has to be considered as one of the top players in his position in European football this season.
From this perspective, he is naturally a candidate for a spot with Brazil’s national team. However, the argument of his critics still stands, as the problem has always been for Brazil – especially defending in one-on-one situations – rather than his form for his club.
Alves excels at pressing high and regaining possession in the final third, in addition to his phenomenal playmaking skills. But he lacks the ability to defend against a skillful speedster when he is exposed against him, as well as the ability to outpace opponents before crossing the ball – like a classical winger as Dani Carvajal, Marcelo or Douglas Costa often do.
Before deciding whether to depend on Dani Alves as a starter in next year’s FIFA World Cup, there remains a fundamental question that Brazil coach Tite has to ask. Do the benefits of using the former treble winner, outweigh the sum of its negatives?