In summer 2016, Barcelona let Dani Alves leave on a free transfer. In spring 2017, Dani Alves helped guide Juventus to thrash Barcelona 3-0.
They say that revenge is a dish that is best served cold. It is very cold in Turin. And Dani Alves is smiling from ear to ear over the battered and bruised corpse of Barcelona having played a key part in their dissection and dissemination.
The Blaugrana repeatedly made Dani Alves feel as though he wasn’t wanted, forcing him to play for his contract extension in 2014/15. And when he finally earned it with his best form since 2012, it was just for a year and they made very public noises about chasing a replacement all season.
The Brazilian was understandably upset, hence opting to depart the club on a free at the end of the season and join Juventus. And if the performance in the quarter-final first leg is anything to go by, that was a very smart choice on his part.
Alves’ performance in Turin was no fluke, either. He’s been excellent all season for his new club, despite breaking his leg in November. He has rebounded from that setback spectacularly and continued on his merry way to helping Juve once again dominate the domestic scene.
Dani Alves has won 17 take-ons at a rate of 73%, 20 aerial duels at a rate of 59% (impressive for a small wing-back) and while his tackle success rate is just 33% – his 22 tackles won is fourth in the Juventus squad. He’s created 30 chances for La Vecchia Signora; only four players have made more. And, again, remember that he missed two months with injury.
But Alves’ influence is most keenly felt in the Champions League. That mountainous challenge that Juve are so desperate to scale, having done so just twice in their history. Here Alves provides a steadying influence, again thriving in the duels – winning 16/39 tackles (more than any other Juventus player), 5/11 tackles and 5/8 headed duels.
More impressively, his 465 passes completed is higher than all full-backs bar David Alaba, and his 89% completion rate matches the Austrians. Where Alves stands apart is with his 21 chances created, which is along with Neymar, the most among any player remaining in the Champions League. And it’s worth remembering here that Neymar is a forward and Dani Alves is a full-back.
Speaking of Alves and Neymar, the two compatriots went head-to-head in Turin. The clash was loaded with history as the two played together for three years at Barcelona before Alves’ departure, winning a Champions League together as well as two consecutive domestic doubles.
But in Turin, they were enemies. Direct opponents on the Barcelona left (and Juventus right). And those who expected this to be something like the Thrilla in Manila, when Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier fought one of the most brutal contests ever. Instead they got something more like Muhammad Ali’s seven round battering of Sonny Liston.
Neymar is Barcelona’s main attacking conduit and their most creative player in the Champions League. His eight assists leads everyone else in the competition and he has evolved to be Barcelona’s main conduit in the final third. Their historic comeback against PSG, where they scored three goals in the last seven minutes of the match, was built almost fully on his brilliance.
So if you cage Lionel Messi with your entire side (a common practice these days) you need to be able to stop Neymar 1v1. And that’s exactly what Dani Alves did. He won 100% of his aerial duels, made four clearances and 1 interception. And although he won just 2/8 tackle attempts, those attempts pushed Neymar back and repeatedly stopped him building momentum.