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Dani Alves: The best right back of all time?

There have been many great right-backs that have graced the football field down the years, but none come close to Juventus and Brazil full-back Dani Alves. He’s quite simply the best there’s ever been.

His outrageous first time volley against AS Monaco was the 51st goal of his glittering career which has spanned almost 800 games. The brilliant Brazilian was the star of the show over both legs against the side from the Principality, he had a hand in all four goals Juventus scored – one goal and three assists. He followed this up with another magnificent volley against Lazio in the Coppa Italia final – proving once again that he’s the man for the big stage.

Great players decide big football matches. While many associate forwards as being match-winners, this year’s UEFA Champions League semi-final between Juventus and Monaco along with the Coppa Italia final demonstrated that defenders can also be not just match-winners, but largely influential players in title winning teams.

Alves is a prime example, what was a major loss for Barcelona has been a major coup for Juventus – on a FREE transfer. Its bewildering as to why the Blaugrana let him go, especially considering they simply haven’t come close to replacing him.

This term, Luis Enrique has experimented with Sergi Roberto and Aleix Vidal in the right-back slot and at times has played with a back three in attempt to fill the huge void which Alves occupied to an exceptionally high standard for eight years at the Camp Nou.

For those eight years and counting, Alves has consistently been the best right-back in the world. He was a key component of perhaps the best club side of all time, winning 24 trophies during his time in Catalonia.

He added another to his collection on Wednesday night – the Coppa Italia. He’s got his eyes on two more in Turin too, as the Bianconeri are also one match away from winning Serie A and the Champions League.

The Champions League final will be 15th final of Alves’ amazing career. For Alves, winning this game along with the Serie A title would be a unique achievement as he could become the first player ever to win a domestic treble three times.

It would also make him just the second ever player to win the treble twice with two different clubs – after his former-Barcelona teammate Samuel Eto’o achieved the feat playing with Alves in 2009 and again for Internazionale a year later when the Cameroon striker moved from Spain to Italy – just as Alves did last summer.Since Alves swapped the red and blue stripes of Barcelona for the black and white stripes of Juventus, his spellbinding form has continued and in some ways reached new levels. At 34 years old, he’s in the form of his life, hungry to achieve big titles in Italy just as he did in Spain.

So far in his career, Alves has won 35 major honours in three different countries (Brazil, Spain and Italy) as well as three on the international stage with Brazil, where he won the Copa America in 2007 and two Confederations Cups in 2009 and 2013. By the end of this season, he could have 37 to his name when including international trophies – more than any player has ever achieved in the game. He’s a serial winner who would improve any team.

Everyone can recognise how much he improved Barcelona in his time there, but he’s just as important to Juventus. Max Allegri has demonstrated that he’s tactically flexible once again this season, deploying both the 4-4-2 and 3-4-3 formations. Key to both Allegri’s systems has been Alves – but we perhaps see the very best of him in the latter.

When playing as a wing-back, Alves becomes a more attacking weapon for his team. He virtually plays as a wing-back in a back four anyway, but in a 3-4-3, the extra defender allows the Brazilian dynamo to focus more on his attacking – the strongest part of his game.

The man Alves displaced in the line-up was Switzerland captain Stephan Lichtsteiner, who has 88 international caps to his name. Lichtsteiner is right up there as far as full-backs and wing-backs go. Like all the other right-backs in world football over the last decade, though, he’s no match for the incredible Alves.

Alves is like two players in one, his attacking play is second to none and his defending isn’t so bad either though. Bizarrely, defending is an area of his game which has come under criticism in the past off some football fans (presumably fans who’ve never watched him play).

For Barcelona, he was consistently a part of a defence which was the best in La Liga six times in eight seasons while he was there, and this season he’s played for a team who have conceded the least goals in Europe’s top five leagues and the meanest defence in the UEFA Champions league.

Internationally, he’s also notched up 100 caps for Brazil where he plays with his former-Barcelona teammate Neymar. In the quarter-final of this seasons Champions League, the two faced off in a duel which Alves convincingly won. Neymar, one of the world’s best players was anonymous for 180 minutes.
His form has almost been faultless. Alves has been voted into five of the last seven FIFPro World XI’s and it probably should have been more taking into his impressive form for Sevilla before he moved to Barcelona – where he won five trophies including back-to-back UEFA Europa League titles in 2006 and 2007.

He’s proved himself to be irreplaceable for Barcelona, but even the likes of Gary Neville or Cafu in their prime wouldn’t be able to replace the mesmerising Dani Alves – hands down the best right-back ever who has re-defined the role and set the benchmark for current and future full-backs.

About Dane Massey

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