In Our Dreams, We Are All Dani Alves

The whole press conference is a show of Alves’ personality: mocking, irreverent, boisterous, happy. He sings, he laughs, he scowls. His mood swings are swift, emotions on his sleeve to the point of being wailing sirens attached to his arms. A journalist is recognized and starts to speak, a query interrupted by the subject.

“[You’re] trash,” Dani Alves says, “next question; I don’t respond to Marca.”

If you were writing a heist screenplay and needed an eccentric character, you could do worse than writing in Dani Alves. He dresses like he woke up in a chic fashion boutique and his glasses game is similar to an American basketball player that a men’s style journal described as an “experienced glasses-wearer.” Alves is, it would appear from countless social media posts, interviews, and press conferences, the same on and off the field.

When he first landed in Spain Alves already had a couple of titles to his name, the modest Campeonato do Bahia and Campeonato do Nordeste that Esporte Clube Bahia won in 2001 and 2002. Yet Alves was an up-and-coming star, his all-around skills fundamental to both the immediate survival of Sevilla in la primera in their first season back in the top flight, as well as for Brazil at the Youth World Championships. By the summer of 2007 Alves was awash in praise from various outlets and fans, and Sevilla was awash in the glory of a second consecutive UEFA Cup victory. Chelsea made bids that were rejected by Sevilla, despite Alves’ professed interest in a move to London. So Alves stayed in southern Spain for another season, then got what amounted to a dream move to Barcelona for €32.5 million, at the time a record fee for a defender.

On the field, Dani Alves is a Formula 1 car whose horn is a sarcastic laugh employed whenever a refereeing decision goes against him. On good days, he’s a 5-year old in a ball pit at McDonalds who has just been told he’ll never have to go home and the burgers are all free. That kind of joy, that kind of spontaneous humanity is infectious, consequences be damned. F1 cars don’t even have horns but Alves’ does because, if it didn’t, he’d get in all sorts of trouble for smashing into opponents in an attempt to alleviate the tension that builds during a match.

In an interview in September 2014, he told El Hormiguero host Pablo Motos that “the thing that bothers me is that fans think that [losing] hurts them more than it hurts us [the players].” He is an open book in so many ways. His interviews are fascinating looks at a man who is comfortable enough with himself to speak openly or spit fire, whichever he feels is most useful at that moment. Perhaps this gets to people, perhaps his penchant for petulance irks those who don’t watch him on a regular basis or whose ideological bent is opposite the blaugrana color spectrum. He’s been called a diver, a theatrical personality, but despite a reputation previously deserved or not, Alves has pretty much given up those antics the last 4 or 5 seasons.

What he can’t give up, what he doesn’t want to give up, what he shouldn’t ever have to consider, is his skin color. The indignities of being a black player in Spain are such that it is not surprising to hear about racist incidents — Alves’ own teammates have supposedly gotten in on the act, with both Sergio Busquets and Cesc Fabregas accused of using racial slurs, charges they denied and that were eventually dismissed. But leave it to Dani Alves to craft a viral response to racism, one that he claims was unplanned.

In the 75th minute of match at Villarreal last season, a banana was flung at Alves as he prepared to take a corner kick. The immediate reaction of nearly all the people and players in history who have encountered this sort of hateful, malicious act has been to either ignore it or stomp off in anger, but Dani Alves is hardly your typical footballer or human being. So he broke the banana in half and took a bite out of it, almost absent-mindedly tossing the rest aside, as if it was just another power bar in the midst of a game.

That night Neymar, Alves’ new Barcelona teammate and a friend from their time together on the Brazilian national team, published a photo of himself and his son with bananas, accompanied by the hashtag #somostodosmacacos — we are all monkeys. The hashtag and the images went global, with a variety of people adding their own takes, their own translations, their own pictures with bananas. Some saw it as a brilliant move to reclaim the banana jokes, the monkey noises, the entire concept of racially motivated verbal and physical abuse on soccer fields. You pay god knows how many Euros to go to a match and you spend your time enraged that there are people darker skinned than you? Sure, okay. Dani Alves takes your potassium and uses it to crush your favorite team.

I’m not overly concerned with athlete personal lives, even when discussing the 3D personalities of talents who are often viewed in the 2D confines of either their on-field actions or through the dingy prism of the tabloids, but Alves raises things to a new level: his agent, Dinorah Santana, is also his ex-wife. Perhaps even more interesting is the detail that she became his agent after their divorce. You cannot box in Dani Alves. He takes your standard understanding of how anyone operates, and uses it like a wrestler uses a folding chair at Wrestlemania: WHAM! against the world’s back.

Sure, Messi has his father running his business, but Messi isn’t going to divorce his dad — Alves divorced his wife and then handed her the reins to his career chariot. Who does that? Dani Freakin’ Alves does that. He’s either a fire god or a head case, but it’s probably about time we trusted him not just on his personal life, but on his career as a whole.

Alves is a frenetic greyhound, hipster, father, ex husband, teammate, bad-but-constant singer, but he is still a human being doing human being things. I wonder if Dani Alves, born in Juazeiro, Bahia to a farming family, finds his position in life surprising. Not because of talent, of which he obviously has buckets, or workload, of which he obviously has a 30-pack of buckets, but simply because of the weight of numbers against him, because he was born thousands of miles from where he’s making his living. He is not the flamboyant, makes-it-look-too-easy player that many of us think of when we think of Brazilian footballers — Ronaldinho, Neymar — so the fact that he plays into both the joga bonito and the box-to-box athlete conversations has left a lot of commenters unsure of his role, his legacy, and his influence. Is he an attack-minded fullback? Is he a defense-minded right winger? Pilloried for his occasional wayward cross that more often than not simply had no one on the receiving end and then called the greatest right back in the world when similar efforts were buried in the back of the net, Dani Alves the player is at once divisive and conciliatory.

And that player, at his press conference, was again a human being doing human things. He bemoaned a lack of action on his contract extension the week before the Copa del Rey final, using the only leverage he has—the press—as a player against an institution made pretty much entirely of money. And while doing it he slaughtered parts of that very same press corps because you can’t keep Dani Alves from being Dani Alves: irrepressible fire god or self-destructive head case. But that self-destruction has led to nothing negative. Besides his divorce, which went under the radar, what has Alves done other than raise his children and play football? Messi has tax problems, but Dani Alves? He has some tattoos and is probably really fun to hang out with if you’re into drinking Red Bull.

Now that he has renewed with Barça, Alves is free to continue pillaging opposing defenses. He’ll be slowly phased out of the team as his age and Aleix Vidal come more and more to bear, but the sporting aspect is just one of a thousand things creating the rare of win-win situations for club and player. Alves not only retains his spot in the team with, one assumes, a good salary, but he is also able to keep his family in Barcelona, something that cannot have been far from his mind throughout the negotiation process, especially with his ex-wife and the mother of his children as his agent. And so, at 32 years old, Dani Alves gets a year or two in the limelight, contributing to the club that turned him from second-tier buzzword to superstar, while cashing in on that stardom. Later, he can gracefully make his way to somewhere else that offers him that last, giant paycheck he deserves. Things could be worse.

If Dani Alves really is a race car, then his life is doing donuts on the high school football field after a big win … while blaring cumbia. And in our dreams, we are all Dani Alves.

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Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater New York City area with his wife and daughter.

47 Comments

  1. Davour
    June 21, 2015

    Great feature on Alves, thanks! I almost agree to the assumption of the article – the exception being during the copa final; that hair-due was simply too much, my god…

    • June 21, 2015

      I have to say, the hair is one thing that didn’t make the article simply because it was too much for me to discuss. I can only go so far into the psyche of a person. There are depths that cannot and should not be plumbed.

    • Davour
      June 22, 2015

      Wise. Good writers know their limit!

  2. luisthebeast
    June 21, 2015

    There is a new candidate who focus on the atmosphere of the stadium and the travel of the fans.They have very good points i hope the new presi listen to them!

  3. agar2515
    June 22, 2015

    Great read. If all your writings carry this same tone than I will be so happy to read them. This reads like a fellow fan inviting you into their den for a beer and a chat and the atmosphere of stepping into a Uni section with a TA who doesn’t like being challenged. A welcome change, much appreciated.

    • Jim
      June 22, 2015

      It is a good read (and nice to see you back, Isaiah ) but I don’t see any need for a dig at the end of the comment. Tone is something that maybe we need to pay more attention to.

    • ooga aga
      June 22, 2015

      Agreed all around Jim! Great piece Isaiah. Fun read. No need for a dig or potshot.

    • June 22, 2015

      Thank you @Jim and Ooga Aga

      @agar2125 without taking sides regarding the spat between you and Kevin, taking potshots days later is not a constructive attitude. This is disappointing. I’ll cut through the bull and tell you that if this is the way you want to take this space forward in the future, I won’t hesitate to heavily moderate or delete your comments.

    • agar2515
      June 22, 2015

      There’s to be no issue.

      [edited]

      – That’s good to hear. You’ll be free to criticize my posts (within reason), as long as you do so in their corresponding comment threads. However, if you want to discuss your issues with a writer who is no longer here, this is not the space. At all.
      Levon

    • agar2515
      June 22, 2015

      [edited]

    • ThnkuXavi
      June 23, 2015

      Long time lurker ( i mostly frequent Barcablaugranas)
      Two things:
      Let it go Agar. I get why you feel how I do, trust me I do. At times I’ve shaken my head at how against the tide opinions were treated here. However, drumming up the past helps no one, the writer you and others had issues with has taken his leave. Let it go.
      Second, I brought up Barcablaugranas because it feels very much more a community than this very much niche space (A couple articles a week and the same less than a dozen voices= niche to me ).
      People police themselves without resorting to brandishing “moderation” , people give each other a hard time without calling it ” attacks”.
      Just perusing the past few articles I was struck at Kevin’s reiteration that all views were welcome and that he hoped people challenged his views.
      I saw evidence instead of ” challenge my views only if you challenge them in the way I deem appropriate”. The rebuttal to this was ” Well it’s Kevin’s space”. No , it is not. It is all of ours as Barca fans. It was not ” Kevin’s
      Barcelona blog: my views or get out” as it very much appeared at times.
      All that is past though, I hope Isaiah continues churning out quality. Just be better to each other is all I would say. Not every voice outside of the crowd is picking a row nor should people so vehemently police the ” tone” of such voices. Just my piece.

    • June 23, 2015

      I left so that this kind of stuff would stop. So please. Stop. Let the space be what it is going to be. Please.

    • ThnkuXavi
      June 23, 2015

      Ouch, your comments below got zapped

  4. stefan2k
    June 22, 2015

    Great read! Much appreciated, welcome back.

  5. luisthebeast
    June 22, 2015

    With all my love and respect to Abidal,nobody can say things like that he is much more intelligent than Puyol.I wish him the best as a SD if LAporta wins but it s not right people say such things.

    • Jim
      June 22, 2015

      I haven’t seen that, Luis. Has it been mentioned somewhere ? If so, it’s out of line.

      I don’t think at this stage Abidal has the experience to be anyone, much less Barca’s, Sporting Director. I’m becoming less impressed by him as the weeks go on, actually.

    • luisthebeast
      June 22, 2015

      I saw it on twitter Jim today.This elections will make us crazy.When Bartomeu wanted Pogba i read some fans saying that we cant spend 80m in a player and that Barto is stupid.Now that Laporta is after Pogba the same people say that is a good thing and that way Laporta will get more votes.I repeat the same fans.But u know whats crazy???When we hear about Gerson,on twitter Ramzi wrote that we maybe make the mistake to give Juventus the option we have,so we can take Pogba.And now i read that maybe Gerson is in the deal for Pogba.Elections are gonna make us crazy!

    • Calvin
      June 23, 2015

      It’s just a fact that some people have already decided who they want to win the election. They will take the same issue and use it to show how one candidate is bad, while the other is good – even when the two candidates have virtually no difference on the issue.

      Just ignore them until after election or they’ll drive you crazy

  6. dl
    June 22, 2015

    He seems like a wily character. I’d bet a euro that his wife becoming his agent was part of the divorce agreement. She has a stake in his success when done that way so they’re both rowing in the same direction. Good for the kids, too!

  7. Ryan
    June 22, 2015

    For all of his frustrating crosses to nowhere (I still have nightmares of his efforts vs. Chelsea 2009), his tireless energy and partnership with Messi bring so much to the team. I’m glad he’s agreed to stay on and hope he can continue to provide us so much on that right flank.

    • agar2515
      June 22, 2015

      Undeniable team legend and positive influence on his teammates.

  8. luisthebeast
    June 22, 2015

    You know what??No Pogba no Koke nobody.We won the treble.Get Suarez back promote Samper and build the team for the future.And buy only Gerson who can be better than Pogba.We are fine for next season.

  9. Calvin
    June 23, 2015

    Alves as a player has always seemed to me the type of person who you always love on your team, but also always hate playing against. The reason is that he is annoying: he runs everywhere, he kicks at your ankles, he talks constantly on the pitch and all the while with that big shit eating grin of his. A great player to have on your side, but it’s obvious he gets in opponents heads in a lot of his games, and I love him for that. Really happy he renewed – both because the team will need him next year (no one on the team can come close to filling his role) and because watching Barcelona is just more fun with him on the field.

    As a side note – speaking of legendary Barcelona fullbacks, I’m glad to see Abidal returning to the club and participating in the election. However, if the reports that he will become sporting director under Laporta are true I’m a little worried, I’m not convinced he spent enough time away from the game or has enough experience to be a top notch sporting director. I’d also like to see a sporting director with intimate knowledge of La Masia, as I see that as the most important aspect of the next directors job.

    • June 23, 2015

      The big incognito at this point is what would happen with Braida if Laporta wins.

    • Calvin
      June 23, 2015

      I seriously doubt Braida stays at the club is Laporta wins.

    • rg23
      June 23, 2015

      While I absolutely adore Abidal for what he meant to Barca as an inspirational player, I also do fear that he may not cut out for the sporting director role. I will be happy to see him back in the club, but only time will tell whether he can do the job well.

      It is quite obvious that Laporta’s first choice as sporting director was Puyol. He would have been a better sporting director simply because he has spent his whole life at the club. Practically grew up through the ranks of la Masia, so an ideal person to take care of it and get our B team back to where they need to be.

      But Puyol like a true leader chose to stay away from being used as an election winning tool. In the process he lost what was almost surely a sporting director role reserved for him.
      Abidal just seems like a “backup” choice Laporta made to keep his campaign going.

      Again, I am a big fan of Abidal, but I am not sure his appointment was based on meritocratic principles as opposed to political reasons.

    • Calvin
      June 23, 2015

      Good point on Abidal being the backup for Puyol. Seems like Puyol decided he could be part of any administration that won and not to put all his eggs in one backet

    • rg23
      June 23, 2015

      Yes, but sadly the nature of politics dictates that you either pick sides, or you get “no share of the pie”. While I do think Puyol would be an ideal candidate to be a sporting director, his neutral stance in the elections (at least publicly) means that he will most likely get no major role no matter who is elected.
      We already have 2 presidential candidates that are lining up big names behind their campaigns. Abidal and Laudrup are examples. Those promises are going to have to be kept. So it is unlikely that any president will just give Puyol a post in his organization without expecting some ground work in return during the campaign.
      I guess it’s about loyalty and I understand where that comes from, but it goes against what’s best for the club.
      That’s what I don’t like about candidates using names to get elected, whether it is a major player transfer or a choice for sporting director.
      But that’s Barca! Interesting times indeed.

    • Inamess
      June 23, 2015

      Good points Calvin! I have to admit I wasn’t paying much attention when they decided to not to renew Abidal but clearly that press conference was a PR disaster as it was clear that he wanted to stay with the club. So is now the precedent set that the club must now renew every popular player or risk that player seeking revenge against the administration in the next elections. I personally hope that Laporta wins mostly because of the Qatar issue but the man is certainly too much of a demagogue for my tastes.

  10. barca96
    June 24, 2015

    Not a fan of Abidal becoming the sports director as he has no experience whatsoever but I do think that one thing he has in his favor is that he might persuade the talented French youngsters to join us.

    • barca96
      June 24, 2015

      Btw does anybody know if the club still has the partnership with Eto’o foundation? Peter? CuleToon?

    • June 24, 2015

      Most of these youngsters look at Zidane as a God, though…

  11. Son
    June 25, 2015

    A very good read Isaiah. Thankyou.

    If I’m Laporta, I would hire an experienced SD and keep our legends behind them so that they can learn for 1/2 years before they actually become SD.

    I enjoy Alves aggressiveness each and every moment if it’s within limit. I also believe that he is the joker that everyone love among the squad.

    OT-
    Copa America
    Chile played like Barca of 2012-14(attacking in Uruguay’s final third) where Uruguay played like bus parking Chelsea.
    It’s a kind of boring after the first send off (Cavani), as I started watching in 68th minute.

    Looking forward tomorrow’s game involving Leo and Masche.
    Its difficult to tell the favourite right now. That makes it even more interesting. Hope Tata put his armour together.

  12. simple_barcafan
    June 26, 2015

    I am curious about who is making the decisions right now at the club. Does any body no?. Delofou’s transfer, Vinyals getting sacked..Online it says “Barcalona Technical Commission”. So is that an independent body that can act without a board, a president etc? Or is Bartomeu still acting as a president? Is it Enrique? Pep? or it surely must be Unicef…

    • hansh
      June 26, 2015

      I do know that there is an interim board in place (I don’t know who’s on it/running it), so I assume that’s who’s making the decisions. I don’t know how much power they really have, though, and in any case they have to be careful not to mess up anything that the incoming president will eventually want to do.

      For example, now that Vinyals has been fired a new coach needs to be hired for barça b but the new president will probably have his own plan for that. So the interim board can’t hire anyone in the meantime. It leaves a few different projects like that in weird positions where they just can’t move forward.

    • simple_barcafan
      June 27, 2015

      Thanks!

      It seems weird that an interim board has powers to sell/fire players and coaches.

  13. IamXavi6
    June 27, 2015

    Deulofeu gone for 6mil…dumb business move by Barca…outrageous you move him on for 6mil…poor

    • June 27, 2015

      Based on what he’s shown at Sevilla, we’re lucky to even get 6M for him.

    • Davour
      June 27, 2015

      How is this a dumb move? He has not shown anything indicating enough quality for the first team – AND the transfer includes a buy-back option, should he suddenly mature to become good enough. Good business, to my mind (especially considering Levon’s point).

    • Jim
      June 27, 2015

      Yeah, not bad for someone who has had two goes at making it in teams nowhere near Barca standard and come back with mixed report card from both. Safety net of buyback if he turns it on consistently so the young lad is in last chance saloon. One things for sure, he can’t any longer be harbouring any delusions of grandeur he may once have had.

      So it’s now we learn if he can add chasing back to his game. If he does I reckon he’s special enough for us. If not, they’ve maybe overpaid for him. Win, win for me.

  14. IamXavi6
    June 27, 2015

    I just think the value doesn’t reflect the over inflated market that all clubs dabble in. He’s so much better than a 6mil value player, regardless of his deficiencies – I wouldn’t let him go for anything less than 10m.

    However, the buy back clause and first option does cover what may happen in future. He’ll be a star for Everton this year, he’s a tremendous talent that juts needs to find himself a bit more.

    I also believe he probably could’ve come back and increased our depth and be given more first team chances this year. I don’t want him to be another player that ‘escaped the net’ Mind you, I can’t fault the people who say he didnt show enough, he certainly has his issues in workrate. I guess the jury is out but the value in my mind doesn’t reflect the actual value of the guy right now. Time will tell.

    • Jim
      June 28, 2015

      I’m not sure coming back this year would have worked, largely because of LE’s mindset. He obviously likes a physical side where everyone does a lot of running and unless he’s learned his lesson with the Messi debacle where imposing a huge fine on him may well have led to his departure (both?) but certainly imo a fruitless season, Delofeu could well have ended up a whipping boy rather than getting the time and space to improve his work rate.

      Have to say I’ve not given up on him yet as I reckon he is a special talent and for me the best place for such a player to see the light is where he sees players daily whom he idolises and respects buckling down to defensive duties. Just not sure LE’s mind isn’t made up. Better maybe to be somewhere a club has shown they want you by paying millions.

    • IamXavi6
      June 29, 2015

      Hey Jim,

      All good points. I’m with you that he is a special talent. I believe he is best suited to be at this club. However, I also acknowledge he has deficiencies in his game that need to be ironed out. The buy back clause softens this sale for me.

      At his stage perhaps he doesn’t fit the LE mindset and mould. I’d hate for him to be another Thiago case though. Time will tell

  15. Son
    June 28, 2015

    The question is, will Martinez give him enough game at Everton? I seriously doubt but who knows as we know he can be the star at Everton with his talent. Again, can he develope his talent? Big question. Right now, I fully agree with our board members to let him go. He is in a situation of Show me or Good bye.

    • Son
      June 28, 2015

      I’m talking about Deulofeu.

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