Let’s begin at the beginning:
If Dani Alves had come from La Masia, his renewal would already be finished. Whether this is a good thing is another question. But because he isn’t, his case is really an excellent one as it lets us sit back and reasonably think about progression, and precisely when it is time for a club to allow an athlete to move on, or when an athlete should decide to move on. The reasons aren’t always sporting.
We forget that athletes are human until they evince human qualities. Dani Alves is one of the favorite whipping boys in the Barça XI. Cules talk crap about his defending, his crossing, his clothes, and have for some time. It is only now, when they think that the club only has crappier alternatives that Alves must be renewed at all costs.
The loyalty question is interesting. Dani Alves isn’t definitely leaving. When asked if he had ruled out staying at Barça, his answer was “Right now, yes.” He also said that the club knows what it has to do, and that its offer is way behind that of others that he has received. And the telling quote, for many: “I am with the team 200 percent. The club, about 10 percent.”
That quote draws a very clear distinction between the club and team, that the two are not the same. Further, if Alves feels that way, you can probably surmise that more than a few players who would never say such a thing at a presser are also feeling the same way. This obviously has the effect of damaging the board a bit before the elections in the eyes of some, but it’s a safe bet that the conservative socis aren’t that fond of Alves and his antics anyhow.
“I am a Barça player until June 7.”
In the wake of the Alves press conference, the words most often heard are “Douglas” and “Montoya.” Culers firmly believe that these are the only two RB option the team has to consider and for that reason, Alves is priceless. “At any cost” is another phrase being tossed about, one that we should look at a bit.
Alves wants big money, and a guaranteed 3-year contract. Barça would be stupid to give him that. If that means that he leaves, then so be it. The succession planning for that position has been poor for years, because clubs tend to believe that because a player likes winning and playing with a great team, that he can be left hanging until they are ready. Alves has surprised them, but I am not sure why. An athlete, like anyone else, wants security. Xavi isn’t going to Qatar for humanitarian reasons. Dude is going to get paid. Alves wants to know that when he hangs up the boots in a few years, he will be set. There is no shame in that game, and anyone who begrudges him that avarice is misguided.
Football usually isn’t about loyalty. It’s about money. The board has calculated, for the moment, that it would be too expensive to keep Alves at the terms the player wants. Alves has decided that it would be too cheap for him to stay at the terms the board wants. At with any negotiation, the ultimate value of something is what each side determines the worth is.
From my seat, the Alves presser is kinda bullshit, because it was supposed to be about his future and the decision. Instead it is a bold-faced (albeit entertaining) negotiation ploy. It isn’t a distraction, because the team knows what it has to do. But if Alves hasn’t decided, he shouldn’t have had the presser. Sit tight, let your team work, and make a decision. There’s plenty of time for pressers after the two finals the team still has to play.
This was a negotiation ploy that a daring player pulled off, and hats off to him for it. We bought it. During that presser, he said that he is happy to be working with Douglas and Montoya, but Enrique chooses him because he works harder. Again, it’s a negotiation ploy. He knows the qualities of those players, and he knows what a fanbase thinks about those players. No shame in using that perception to light a fire under the club. “If they don’t renew me, you will have Montoya and Douglas,” is what he has said in effect.
Alves said that he was having the presser because a lot of nonsense was being said in the media. But there are easier ways to manage that. The only thing being said about Alves is that he was leaving the club, with PSG the most likely destination. So you find a favored journalist, and give him the quote that such a thing is rubbish. Done. Instead he holds a presser that rather blatantly capitalizes on the negative perception of the board in many eyes, say that he doesn’t feel valued.
“They said I only think about money, but it’s not like that.”
Okay. But then don’t mention that Barça’s offer trails the others, discuss the intangible things that you feel should be part of that offer. The simple fact of the matter is that Alves is on the fence because the club isn’t offering him enough money or a long enough guaranteed contract to stay.
“I am not thinking about money, but about what I do being valued after everything I have done, everything I have achieved for this club.”
Let’s return to that Masia question. The only reason culers are wanting Alves to stay is because a better alternative isn’t clear. If Montoya had panned out, folks would be helping Alves pack his bags. When Alves wasn’t playing all that well, people were ready to pack them for him anyhow. He is a cause celebre at present mostly because he has raised his game at contract time, as many athletes do. Can he sustain that game? Interesting question. Play for pay is an interesting idea. Teams hate guarantees because why should a player keep working hard to prove anything? Players love guarantees because security is good.
Victor Valdes left the club, it seems, for many of the same reasons that Alves is thinking about leaving, that much-heard “respect.” For Valdes, it wasn’t about money. He got paid, but left the club for some reason only he knows. What is the Alves motivation? If it’s respect and damage done, this presser is, like the Valdes one, cut and dry. “See ya later.” Is it for Alves, and how different would the perception of the player have been from supporters and the club over time, if he was a Masia product instead of a paid transfer from Sevilla, and again, would his renewal have been done if he was a Masia product?
Keep Alves at any cost? What would the cost have been to keep Xavi, and would it have been worth it? Xavi has a guaranteed, 3-year deal for a metric shit ton of money, when he has maybe another season of top-flight football in his legs. It’s worth asking how culers would have felt had Xavi stayed for big money on the same deal as Qatar, playing in spots and essentially hanging out with the team his last two seasons. Xavi didn’t want to do that because of how he feels about Barça, but also how he feels about himself.
“I do not have the feeling that the club values what I have done for this club.”
Again, there is that distinction, and the message is clear: I have been dissed by this board, a group that is on the hot seat for many socis. Alves also mentions that he has been contacted by a presidential aspirant, but that his mind will be made up long before the election. So why mention it, except to stoke the flames that are already engulfing a hot seat? Alves says that the question isn’t contract duration, then what is it? Is it as simple as Bartomeu having him over a dinner? Does he want a mini statue?
“I still want to stay here, but not at any price. And I’m not talking about money but about respect.”
Alves is brilliant in how he worked the situation, but he’s also a little desperate. If he had the offer from another club that he wanted, he wouldn’t have had the presser. He would have taken the offer, told his teammates and had his presser after the season. Valdes didn’t have a presser saying “Well, I’ve been dissed, etc, etc.” His presser said “I’m leaving, and that’s that.”
Alves would like to stay, but should he stay, purely from a sporting perspective. What’s the cost? Recall the last year at the club of Thierry Henry and how that sat with culers. Alves would be making one hell of a lot more than Henry, but his shelf life as the kind of RB that he is, is limited. We already saw cracks in the armor, until a tactical shift allowed him to return to being a very effective player. Would the praise for Alves’ play be as high if he had faced Ribery? Good question.
“[The club] just started talking to me about this 3-4 months ago, because according to them I’m playing better.”
Well, that’s true. Why should a business entity give an employee not meeting standards a raise? This isn’t all about the board, though a club’s supporters often side with a player, particularly in the case of a board that for so many is on bad paper? Players want more money, but if a club tries to take money back when his performance lags, that would never happen, nor should it. Everyone seeks the best deal that they can.
From my seat, keeping Alves has to be weighed against the cost potential. If not having Alves as RB would cost the team a chance at ultimate success, then it’s worth it to renew him. If not, he can leave. It’s that simple, really. All of the other talk about respect, etc, is just clouding the waters. What is the real cost of Alves staying or going, and can the club bear the brunt of it?
This isn’t about the board, even as my views on that entity are well known. It’s about an employer making the best decision about an employee, and that employee seeking the best possible deal for himself. All the rest is blather. Today’s presser was well played by Alves. It basically said, “I want to stay, but it’s up to the board.” Yes, that same board that is facing perception problems, difficulties that would be washed away in a blizzard of confetti were the team to win the Treble. So Alves knows it’s now or never, and he took his shot.
“Loyalty” and “respect’ are often bandied about in conversations about players and teams. What isn’t often discussed is when it is really time for a player to move on. A club’s ideal is to sell a player a season before his performance drops, for the maximum fee. That rarely happens. A club nightmare is for a player with value to leave on a free, because they don’t get paid. A player with minimal value but a big contract would love to leave on a free, because any transfer fees can instead go into the salary kitty. And in the end it all comes down to money.
What Dani Alves does as a player and bon vivant is brilliant. If he isn’t at the team next season, it would be a loss. But his situation makes us face a very complex question about what a player has left in his tank. In other words, is the real Alves the last few months, or the time before that? Sport is “what have you done for me lately?” Contracts are “What can you do for me?” A veteran player, especially one of Alves’ age and type, sits at the complex nexus between those two realities.
Xavi was excellent as a bit player, but not a full-time starter. He had reached that point. Alves isn’t at that point yet, but how close is he and how much money is it worth to find out? That is the question at issue here. All the rest is blather and entertainment.