Dani Alves may be a long way past his best but evergreen trophy-hunter will still cover more ground than anyone in match against Manchester United as he bids for 40th career title
- PSG defender Dani Alves is chasing a sensational 40th career title this season
- The evergreen Brazilian is set to play in midfield against Manchester United
- He won two Champions League titles against the Red Devils while at Barcelona
- Alves may be past his best but he will cover every blade of grass at Old Trafford
In among the boxes containing the record-breaking 39 medals that Dani Alves has won over the years, there are the two Champions Leagues medals he picked up playing for Pep Guardiola at Barcelona, both from finals against Manchester United.
He missed the first through suspension – picking up a booking at Stamford Bridge in the semi-final – but starred in the second at Wembley.
It’s a measure of his longevity that ten years on from that first final in Rome, he is ready to face United again on Tuesday night for Paris Saint Germain at Old Trafford.
PSG defender Dani Alves is chasing a sensational 40th career title this season
The Brazilian is still raring to go and will play against Manchester United on Tuesday night
Such was his relationship with Guardiola that when he decided to leave Juventus in 2017 (his first stop after Barça) his next club was so nearly Manchester City.
Guardiola felt at the time that one of the things he most lacked at City was players who were completely convinced by his methods.
Alves was always a believer. He had been Guardiola’s first signing at Barcelona in 2008. He once called Guardiola ‘football’s Einstein’ and he wasn’t being sarcastic.
For all that Guardiola wanted his former right-back at the Etihad, the fact that Alves was already 34 made City reluctant to offer more than a one-year deal. PSG offered two years and Alves was also made aware of the possibility that his pal Neymar would also arrive that summer.
So it was that Alves went to Ligue 1 – the denim waistcoat with leopard skin lapels, drop-crotch sweatpants and glittery Regency slippers would never been seen striding through a Premier League mixed zone. And more importantly probably football’s greatest ever attacking right-back would never been seen hurtling down the right flank.
Alves won two Champions League titles against Manchester United under Pep Guardiola
Alves used to drag the entire Sevilla team forward from right back before leaving for Barcelona
Now at 35 (36 in May), Alves doesn’t do as much hurtling as he used to. But he still scurries. He is expected to play in a midfield three with compatriot Marquinhos and Marco Verratti on Tuesday night.
Perhaps his gradual change of position justifies City finally stepping back and not doing enough to secure Alves’ services two years ago.
The passing of the years and a cruciate ligament tear in his right knee last season that kept him out of the World Cup have slowed him down.
His bursts forward are more sporadic now – the days when he used to drag the entire Sevilla team forward from right back, or be two points of a dynamic triangle down the Barcelona right that invariable had a Lionel Messi or a Xavi as its apex, are gone.
His dalliance with Manchester City was not the only time he flirted with a move to England. Roman Abramovich wanted to sign him for Chelsea from Sevilla in 2007 but Chelsea balked at paying over £20m for a mere defender – something, of course, Alves never was.
The passing of the years and a cruciate ligament tear in his right knee have slowed him down
He’s a long way past his best but he will cover more ground than anyone else at Old Trafford
‘I am a full-back with possibilities,’ he said in an interview in 2010. ‘I come from the Brazilian school where the emphasis is always on attack and where I was brought up to be able to play in all positions.’
In an interview with Sportsmail in 2016 Alves said of England: ‘I don’t know when, but I would like to play there – to experience what I have seen so many times from the sofa at home. The way the people experience football in England. The way there is a corner and it’s cheered like it’s a goal.’
The chance has probably gone for good now. He has long been formulating various fashion and restaurant projects with partner Joana Sanz to keep him busy in his retirement. He will no doubt hang on for a 40th winners medal although without Neymar it might be optimistic to say it could be a Champions League one.
With so many injuries – including to right back Thomas Meunier – it’s a mystery where Thomas Tuchel will play him tonight. He could even revert to the right side of defence or play as a wing-back infront of right centre-back Thilo Kehrer.
Wherever he starts the game, he will cover most of the pitch during its duration. He’s a long way past his best but as wide right-sided footballers go, he’s close to one of the best there ever was.