Dani Alves, in public at least, doesn’t spend much time in the background. The clothes he wears to arrive at Camp Nou prior to a match make heads turn, and his pre-Copa del Rey final trip to the barbers had social media gossiping in a manner usually reserved for a new style for a member of One Direction. On the pitch he stands out too, all-action, harrying, harassing, never letting the team’s energy drop – basically being Dani Alves.
With that in mind it’s perhaps a surprise that, for all the whispers about his future at Barcelona, much of Alves’ contract negotiations have been conducted with little or no comment from the man himself. The Catalan Press have carried stories for the past 12 months, his agent and ex-wife have had their say and Barca President Josep Maria Bartomeu has chipped in as well. So too have some of Alves’ teammates – close friend Lionel Messi included – but Alves played his cards close to his chest until he finally showed his hand.
And when Alves showed his hand, he really showed it. “I’m not thinking about money but only to be valued for what I do, and I don’t think the club value me in the way I deserve,” he said at a May Press conference. “I’ll happily leave before they kick me out, but what I won’t accept are [accusations of being a mercenary] because I’ve always worked hard for this club, including this season.
“For now I’ll continue to give 200 percent to the team, but I have both feet and my head out of the club,” Alves continued, strafing the club he has served for seven years and a large section of the media in the process. Safe to say, Alves was not happy with how negotiations had been progressing. But he was true to his word. At no point before or since could Alves be accused of giving anything less than his best for La Blaugrana.
We may not be seeing the peak Alves of a few years ago, but this version, even at 32, still has plenty to offer. The sundry names linked with Barca should Alves actually depart illustrate just how difficult he will be to replace – there is no standout candidate and, even if there was, Barca couldn’t field him until January 2016. The club have made it clear that they believe their FIFA-imposed transfer embargo allows them to sign players before January 2016, just not register them, but that still leaves a void to fill for half a season.
The two main candidates at the club are Martin Montoya and Douglas Pereira, and neither has been able to dislodge Alves this term. Douglas has barely featured and might not even be at the club for the start of next season. Montoya has also made noises about wanting to move on to a club at which he will play regularly, leaving Barca in the troubling predicament of potentially losing all three of their senior right-backs this summer.
If his form in helping Barca to two trophies this term isn’t enough, Alves has another opportunity to show Barca what they’ll be missing if no deal is agreed when Juventus are the opposition in Berlin. Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United are the teams most regularly linked with his signature and both will be watching the weekend showpiece. Alves missed the 2009 final through suspension but played in 2011. That experience and winning mentality will be crucial, not just on Saturday, but for however long Alves can keep chugging up the right flank for the Catalans.
This is a player who earlier in his career could have joined Liverpool or Chelsea and won’t get another chance to play in the Premier League. He could also be tempted by the Brazilian enclave in France and the petrodollars that fund it. After almost 350 games in blue and red, forging a close bond with Messi, and showing what teammates mean to him by offering part of his liver to Eric Abidal, Alves looks set to walk away. And he’s not going to go quietly. Another Champions League winners’ medal would make the biggest statement of all.