Say what you like about Dani Alves, but recent performances have once again shown why the Brazilian must urgently be offered an extension to his contract at Barcelona.
The saying that "you don't know what you've got till you lose it" can be perfectly applied in this instance.
Yes, there are times when Alves' tactical appreciation lets him down, but there aren't too many better players in his position.
For example, look at the meagre options available to Barca sans Alves. Each and every time Martin Montoya has deputised, he has disappointed. Including the most recent La Liga fixture against Athletic Bilbao.
Less dynamic, hesitant and wasteful in possession and caught out defensively time and again, Montoya cannot be seen as a suitable long-term candidate for the position.
Ditto new signing Douglas.
Rupert Fryer of Goal.com sums up quite nicely the impact, or lack thereof, that Douglas, a fellow Brazilian, is likely to make in La Liga:
"News of Barcelona's capture of Sao Paulo full-back Douglas was initially greeted with chuckles from most Brazilian football fans.
But what was once a joke is now looking like a fairy-tale move.
[...] Not that the Sao Paulo fans care all that much. They won't be overly disappointed to see Douglas depart in a deal that could net the club as much as €5.5 million.
[...] Something of a 'patinho feio' (ugly duckling), he was often singled out for criticism in an underperforming side."
Most assists for Messi
It's worth placing on record that Alves is the player who has provided the most assists to Lionel Messi over the last few seasons. For that alone, Alves' value to the side cannot be undermined.
Not averse to scoring the odd golazo himself, Alves' best trait is an incessant work rate which will see him manically patrolling the right channel from first until last.
Vultures are circling
A player who wears his heart on his sleeve, his shortcomings are often overlooked by the Camp Nou faithful because they identify with a player that always gives 100 per cent effort.
Come January of 2015, Alves is free to negotiate with whomever he pleases and Manchester United, Liverpool, Paris Saint Germain and Inter Milan have already made noises to his representatives.
Age may no longer be on his side but, as Xabi Alonso's departure has shown at Real Madrid, you don't tinker with something that isn't broken.
Real have struggled badly without their pivot; Barcelona will surely suffer the same fate if they allow Alves to walk away from their employment.
Short-term deals the way forward?
Would it not be sensible to offer practical, short-term deals to the Brazilian until such time as more suitable replacement is found?
Someone with the energy, verve and commitment that we can guarantee on every match day from Alves.
Barcelona need to be careful what they wish for, when what they desire is staring them directly in the face.
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