When Real Madrid and Barcelona face off in Riyadh on Wednesday night, there will be a battle down one flank that few would have expected just a few months ago: Vinicius against Dani Alves.
Before Alves’ surprise return to Barcelona in November, no one would have thought that he might be lining up to take on compatriot Vinicius in the Supercopa. The big revelation of Los Blancos’ season against a Blaugrana stalwart back for an unexpected swansong.
A mere 17-year age gap separates the pair of Brazilians, the old guard and the young pretender, two players in vastly different moments in their careers but with the same objective in Saudi Arabia this week. While they are both hungrily chasing the silverware they crave and their fans demand, Vinicius represents the future, a bright one, while Alves is a blast from the past, however brilliant that past was.
It is a duel that also reflects the current situation of both clubs, as Vinicius is eyeing a new contract as a reward for the leap he’s taken this season, three years after signing for 45 million euros. Meanwhile, Dani Alves’ return to the Camp Nou had a lot to do with the club being unable to afford other options and, for loyalty and love for the club he represented with excellence for so many years, he accepted to sign on for the minimum terms that La Liga allows top-flight clubs to pay professional players.
It is a classy gesture from the most decorated footballer of all time and he has shown he still has something to offer and he still wants to add to his trophy haul of 42, which dwarves Vini’s five. The right-back has good memories of facing Real Madrid, having done so on 45 occasions, winning 22 and losing 16.
Vinicius, however, also enjoys playing against Barcelona, with four wins, one draw and two losses in seven games. The last of those losses came in the 2018-19 season.
At the international level, their paths have been headed in different directions, with Alves only notching up 27 minutes for Brazil since 2019, while in the same period Vinicius has slowly been making inroads into the squad and team and has earned nine caps. The 21-year-old doesn’t enjoy the same status for his country as he does for Madrid, but it is surely only a matter of time, although he still has a long way to go to match Alves’ total of 119 caps.
On Wednesday at the King Fahd International Stadium, there can only be one winner between these two Brazilians who play with a smile on their face and have lit up Spanish football in different ways, at different times. There is more than just a place in the final – against either Atletico or Athletic – at stake, though, with the Supercopa being a great way to set up the rest of the season and gain momentum going down the stretch.
Last year, Vinicius was a sub as Los Blancos exited at the semi-final stage against Athletic, while Dani Alves was playing for Sao Paulo, but this week they’ll be starting and will have a big say in the outcome.