If you believe the mainstream media then you’ll have already been given almost 24 hours to digest the idea that both Manchester United and Liverpool are planning to negotiate short-term deals with Barcelona’s Dani Alves in January.
The Brazilian full-back, whose contract at the Nou Camp ends next summer following seven years worth of leal service and top-level performances, is available for free for the 2015/16 campaign, and his experience and pedigree is already attracting plenty of suitors.
His time as a star in the Barcelona setup has been rapidly curtailed by the introduction of Luis Enrique, and the purchase of the burgeoning talent Douglas from South American side Sao Paolo has increased the competition for the right-back berth. Now, Alves’s days look numbered, and though the Catalans won’t be able to add to their current squad until 2016, his departure seems inevitable notwithstanding a shock Enrique u-turn.
The suitors ready to do business
Cue an abundance of top European outfits ready to sniff out a bargain deal for a player who up until a year ago was regarded as amongst the best full-backs on the planet.
Whilst he may not longer be able to claim parity with the likes of Phillip Lahm, Alves promises a wealth of experience, and his glittering C.V stands as a record of a career which has been incredibly productive.
Amongst the 31-year-old’s suitors are mega-rich Paris Saint-Germain and Inter Milan, as well as the aforementioned Premier League duo of United and Liverpool. PSG have been keen admirers of Alves’s abilities since their huge financial refurbishment, and Inter are currently attempting to re-establish themselves as a force in Italy following an unexpected dip post-Jose Mourinho.
Whilst they have reasons for assuming that Alves can contribute positively to their respective plans for the near future, the idea of either Liverpool or United taking him onboard is surprising to the point of being outright daft.
The time for the powerful right-back to try his hand at conquering the Premier League has long since passed, and it would take a very optimistic supporter indeed to assume that he would offer much to a side in England’s top flight vying for major silverware.
Alves at United
First and foremost there’s United, who, like Inter, are looking to spark a resurgence that would see them once more ranked amongst the best sides in Europe. The disarray caused by last season’s damned campaign under David Moyes has been long lasting and severe, and even Louis van Gaal’s first few games in charge have been tainted with the hangover caused by the destructive fallout.
Over £150 million has been spent this summer on a restructuring project which has seen the likes of Radamel Falcao and Angel Di Maria arrive to throw their weight behind Van Gaal’s ambitions. Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw, Daley Blind and Ander Herrera also pledged their futures to United, with the Red Devils having missed out on a number of other players on top of that.
Yet whilst mass financial outlay and large-scale upheaval appears to be the order of the day at Old Trafford the purchase of Alves, even on a short-term deal, would make little sense. Rafael and Antonio Valencia - the two who are currently contesting the right to be first-choice right wingback - may not be the most trusted of souls when defending, but neither can be doubted when bombing on into the opponent’s final third.
Alves has made his name by being extremely potent moving forward, but even he would be hard pressed to wax lyrical over his capacity to be equally effective in front of his own goal.
At Barcelona the unerring possessional dominance and overall ability of the squad has meant that his issues when it comes to stopping wingers attacking his flank have never really been exposed. In the Premier League, and with a United side far removed from Barca in terms of their approach to the game, the same blanket would not be offered.
Instead Van Gaal would be wise to press on with his efforts to sign Juan Cuadrado. The Colombian’s defensive stats from last term might not as impressive his La Liga rival’s - Alves won 64 tackles to Cuadrado’s 38 and recorded 54 interceptions over the latter’s 24 - but Cuadrado has years to improve, and is far more dynamic for the future than Alves is.
On the other hand there’s Liverpool, who are steadily growing in stature under Brendan Rodgers. Last season saw them come within a whisker of lifting the Premier League, and this year they’ll be aiming to go one better, as well as juggling the Champions League to boot.
Rodgers has wisely opted to invest in depth with the £75 million he received from the sale of Luis Suarez, but once again the opportunity to add Alves to his books is one that he has to ignore.
Glen Johnson’s reign as the go-to-guy on the right hand side of the defence at Anfield has been repeatedly called into question of late, but in Jon Flanagan they have a player eager to be given a proper shot at proving himself, and fellow youngster Javier Manquillo will be in a similar boat if his current loan move from Atletico Madrid is made permanent.
Within a side craving top level experience Alves would undoubtedly be of use, but in this revolutionary Liverpool team there is no place for players who are in the twilight years of their careers. Steven Gerrard’s god-like status and irrefutable loyalty has afforded him a central role, but in the transfer market Rodgers is seeking exciting talent for the future, not proven players who are past their best.
To claim that Alves should be looking to hang up his boots is just as bizarre as to state that he should be drafted into Van Gaal’s squad, because he clearly has years left to give. That being said those years would be far more constructive if they were spent in a division which isn’t known for breaking foreign imports like the Premier League is.
It’s been made clear to all that Barcelona are ready to dispense with the services of the former Sevilla star. Liverpool and United simply have to rule themselves out of the running to become his last stop before retirement.
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