Wednesday 28 June 2017 16:41, UK
As Dani Alves leaves Juventus, Sky sources understand Manchester City are interested in bringing the Brazilian to the Etihad Stadium. That looks like it would be a shrewd move by Pep Guardiola, writes Adam Bate.
The accepted wisdom this summer was that Manchester City needed younger full-backs. Whether it was the 31-year-old duo of Gael Clichy and Aleksandar Kolarov on the left or Bacary Sagna and the popular, but ageing, Pablo Zabaleta on the right, this had emerged as the problem position long before Pep Guardiola turned to Jesus Navas.
Fresh blood and fresher legs would be needed for the City coach to play his way. So, on the face of it, the pursuit of 34-year-old Dani Alves could be seen as something of a curiosity. The Brazilian is older than all but one of the above full-backs. He is not exactly in the age bracket expected as part of Guardiola's squad rebuild.
Dani Alves edged closer to his move to Manchester City after penning a heartfelt goodbye to Juventus supporters.
But then, some players are worth making an exception for.
Alves was, of course, part of Guardiola's famed Barcelona team. Between 2008 and 2012, they won two Champions League trophies and a dozen other pieces of silverware. Alves has used the past five seasons even more constructively than his old boss - adding another Champions League medal and completing the double in each of his past three seasons.
In doing so, he has become the template for the modern attacking full-back. A player still happy to be defined by that term but not constrained by it. His interpretation is more adventurous than most. For example, despite the much-heralded link ups with Xavi and Andres Iniesta, it is Alves who has provided more assists for Lionel Messi than anyone else.
The sight of him marauding down the right flank is a customary one, switching between his posting within the back-four and the wing-back role with ease during his year at Juventus. Indeed, Alves only seems to have increased in effectiveness with age, intervening at vital moments for the Italian champions over the past campaign.
Most notably, there was his stunning strike against Monaco in the Champions League semi-final, having already provided two assists in the first-leg victory. "Did you see his assists? That's what a central playmaker does," enthused Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri afterwards. He came up with more than any other Juve player in last season's competition.
Indeed, only Toni Kroos created more chances in the entire tournament than Alves. He is a big-game player with a temperament that allows him to embrace the biggest of stages. Typically, he also came up with a goal and an assist as Juventus completed the double with their Coppa Italia final win over Lazio last month. His qualities translate to other leagues.
Alves has retained his trademark capacity for adventure and the physical assets remain. If it was not for the fact that Alves had been at the top of the game for over a decade, with 100 caps for Brazil and his age a matter of public record, there would be little reason to think he was anything other than at the peak of his powers.
That fact will have persuaded Guardiola that he represents a bargain. As Messi himself once said: "It would be difficult to find another like him." So why opt for an Alves-type full-back, a younger but more expensive imitation, when the real deal is available instead? With the signing of Alves, City's weakness can become one of their greatest strengths overnight.
That the club's pursuit of Kyle Walker is set to continue is an acknowledgement that this is not a long-term solution. But the decision to chase Alves is also an indication that Guardiola needs short-term answers too. Having just endured a trophyless season, the prospect of another is both unpalatable and unprecedented since the turn of the decade.
Guardiola has had to deal with the sceptics, those who wrongly argue that his success was inevitable at clubs such as Barcelona and Bayern Munich. Perhaps the naysayers will present similar arguments about Alves, but the fact that he also won two UEFA Cups with Sevilla and went close to a shock La Liga win with the club in 2007 hints at something more.
Alves' infectiousness is something Guardiola wants around. A unique character whom even Gigi Buffon reportedly turned to in the hope of unlocking Champions League glory, he brings the intangibles to City as they look to build a winning culture. Despite their success, Alves adds to that. He is a man Guardiola trusts to do it. And a man who trusts in Guardiola too.
I never thought that a team could press like we do. Pep's greatest success is convincing players, even great players, to do that.
"Tactically, I've improved under Pep, learning to do the simplest thing, which sometimes is the most difficult thing," he told The Guardian in 2012. "I never thought that a team could press like we do: from minute one to minute 95, pressuring the ball and in the opposition's half. Pep's greatest success is convincing players, even great players, to do that."
If he can convince Dani Alves to keep doing it at 34 then why not the rest of City's squad? After all, it's a group with fewer Champions League medals between them than the veteran. Alves may not have youth on his side but he has just enough youthful exuberance to get by. Perhaps he could yet prove a transformative signing for his old coach. And his new club too.