Much of the story of Lionel Messi and Daniel Alves’ careers has been a shared one. Any football fan, whichever team they support, will have memories of that wonderful South American partnership flying down the right-hand side of the Nou Camp pitch.
Messi jinked inside, Alves overlapped; the cutback and the goal. You knew it was coming and there was nothing anyone could do to stop it.
Together, they won three Champions Leagues and six Spanish titles amongst a total of 23 trophies. In a team that over the years contained Xavi, Iniesta, David Villa and Neymar, no duo brought Barcelona more goals than the Brazilian full-back and Argentine magician.
And if everything goes to plan for them over the next few weeks as they captain their respective countries at the Copa América, they could provide a final chapter to their inextricably intertwined careers that is delightfully reminiscent of the first.
The final will be held in the Maracanã on June 7 and it could be a repeat of the very first international final that Messi and Alves played – Argentina vs. Brazil at the 2007 Copa América in Venezuela.
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Argentina were huge favourites going into that match, and for good reason – the football had been sparkling. They had put four past Colombia and the United states in the Group stage, whacked another four past Peru in the quarters and beaten Mexico comfortably in the semis.
“A concerto of passes”, wrote a Mexican journalist after that game, “Lionel Messi alone is worth more than all eleven Mexicans.” The Albiceleste fans were so confident that they brought an enormous papier mache replica of the World Cup trophy to wave above their heads on the terraces.
But their joy would not last long. After three minutes Júlio Baptista turned inside Roberto Ayala and smashed the ball into the top corner. Half an hour later, Daniel Alves would see his cross turned into the net by the same Argentine centre-half.