Football Features

Dream, Realistic, Wildcard: Where next for football’s most successful player in history?

By CJ Smith

Published: 13:31, 11 July 2019

Dani Alves, officially the most successful footballer of all time, is looking for a new club.

Having sealed his 40th career title – as well as the tournament’s MVP award – by captaining Brazil to this summer’s Copa America, the 36-year-old will now listen to offers from potential suitors having left PSG after just one season.

He might be getting on, but Alves has proved over the last 12 months that he still has the energy and drive to bomb up and down the touchline, as well as all the desire needed to sustain himself at the very top level.

But at this point in his career, Alves has a few things to decide. Does he make a lucrative switch to a ‘money’ league to bring in the dollars (or renminbi, or yen) and pretty much guarantee his starting place? Or does he stick at it in one of Europe’s top five leagues even though he may not see as much time on the pitch as he’d like?

At Squawka, we’ve taken a look at some of the dream, realistic and wildcard options awaiting the ludicrously decorated right-back this summer.

Dream: Barcelona

You can leave Barcelona, but you’ll never quite get rid of that attachment you feel to the Blaugrana once you’ve been there. For Alves to return to the Nou Camp would be an incredible homecoming for one of the most highly regarded stars of Barca’s modern age.

With Sergi Roberto and Nelson Semedo already at their disposal, it’d certainly be a gamble for Alves to move there, especially as he is looking to play as much first-team football as possible in his twilight years. However, it’s a gamble he would back himself to win, given his previous in the Catalan region, as well as his faith in his own ability.

Reports in Spain suggest Alves has already informed Barca of his desire to return, while his performances at the Copa America would suggest he still has what it takes to compete with his younger right-back rivals.

Dream: Manchester City

From Barca, to Juve, to PSG, Alves has been going on something of a pit-stop tour around Europe’s domestic champions of late, so a move to Manchester City feels like the most natural step to take next.

Furthermore, a move to England has long been on the mind of the Brazilian, who said last month: “The idea that I might finish my career without going to the Premier League, it is not possible.

“For sure, this is the most amazing football in the world. First, because of the respect for the players from the fans, and then because of the passion on the pitch.

“If I can play, that would be perfect, but I will make it there one way or the other.”

Alves has recently spoken out about the stylistic differences he experienced at times while playing under Pep Guardiola but at the same time, the two spent their best years with each other in their respective roles.

There’s a good chance Danilo could be on his way out of the Etihad this summer and should that happen, City will be left with Kyle Walker as their only natural right-back. Domestic treble-winning sides and those with ambitions of European conquest aren’t built on a lack of options, they’re defined by a plethora of them.

Alves would get plenty of playing time as Guardiola rotates and keeps his squad fresh, while the likelihood of adding a Premier League medal to his ever-growing collection would be the cherry on the cake that is his golden career.

Squawka suggests: Manchester City

A return to Barcelona sure is romantic but being realistic, it isn’t an advisable choice. Semedo is a very solid right-back and is no mug going forward, while Roberto offers more than enough in attack to pave over his defensive cracks (just).

Man City are going to need more cover next season if they’re to finally get over that Champions League hoodoo and Alves, with all his experience, leadership and outstanding talent, could be the perfect man to slip in and out of Guardiola’s side, playing far more than he would do with Barcelona.

Realistic: Inter Milan

“Now the Cup is over and I don’t have a club, I ‘m unemployed! Let’s see if someone gives me a job, I’m open to offers.” Those were Alves’ words following his successful Copa America campaign.

From Diego Milito, to Julio Cruz and Javier Zanetti, Inter have never really had a problem when signing older players or sticking with them into their latter years. In fact, some of the Nerazzurri’s most historic moments have come when a strong core of veterans fills out their side.

There have been reports linking Inter with Alves, with some even suggesting an offer has already been made as Antonio Conte looks to add strength and depth to his new side.

Sime Vrsaljko and Cedric Soares didn’t have the desired effect on loan last season, leaving Inter with only Danilo D’Ambrosio as a realistic right-back option.

The old-timers have done it over and over again in Serie A and Alves is a very young 36. A year or two at Inter would provide him with the top level football he craves and another run in the Champions League, while allowing Conte to focus his summer budget on more high priority areas – such as what to do with Mauro Icardi.

Realistic: Chinese Super League

Hulk did it, Yannick Carrasco did it, Stephan El Shaaraway has just done it. Hell, even Rafa Benitez has just jetted off to China. Whether it be for money, a cultural change or just a lack of other options, it seems like just about everyone wants to try the Far East at the moment.

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If no realistic offers from some of Europe’s big guns come to fruition, it’s hard to imagine Alves turning down the high life in China’s fast-growing league. The list of Brazilians to have featured in the Chinese Super League includes the likes of Oscar and Alexandre Pato, is long and only getting longer. Alves would surely be the biggest of the lot.

That said, a desire to remain in one of Europe’s top five leagues may see him hold off until the final moment, regardless of the riches on offer.

Squawka suggests: Inter Milan

If Alves can still rock up at the Copa America, captain Brazil to glory and be pretty much the best player there, he can still do a year in Serie A, at the very least.

Despite his already record-breaking trophy haul, you can’t help but feel like Alves deserves one more crack with a top club in the Champions League and under Conte, Inter will be making strides to make themselves serious contenders on domestic and European fronts once again. Alves could play a key role in that early on.

Wildcard: MLS

The likes of Miguel Almiron, Tyler Adams and Zack Steffen’s moves to Newcastle United, RB Leipzig and Man City respectively prove MLS is no longer the retirement home it once was.

Sure, there will always be a place for one of Europe or South America’s legends but behind every Zlatan Ibrahimovic, there’s an Efrain Alvarez, and behind every Wayne Rooney, there’s a Luciano Acosta.

Alves would have to be selective about which club he moved to should he switch to MLS but that said, there would still be plenty of suitors for him across the pond, while the lifestyle there would be an incredible way for him to wind down his career.

Wildcard: Liverpool

According to Alves’ former Brazil teammate Kleberson, the right-back would be a great fit for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.

“He’s a phenomenal player with amazing quality,” he said. “I feel maybe could fit in well at Liverpool and Klopp would like him as a style of player.

“He’s very technical, fast and has an incredible temperament in the big games. He’s a winner.”

He’s still fast for his age and obviously still has the hunger for the big games. None of that is in doubt. And, as eluded to in our most recent edition of the Squawka Talker Podcast, he would be one hell of a mentor to Liverpool’s young right-back, Trent Alexander-Arnold.

But therein lies the problem. Would Alves be happy to spend his final years of playing sitting on the bench and passing on wisdom? Given Alexander-Arnold’s incredible form over the past 18 months, coupled with Klopp’s trust in young players, it’s almost impossible to envisage a world where Alves holds down a place in the starting XI, although we’re sure he’d relish the challenge.

Squawka suggests: MLS

The idea of Alves coaching Alexander-Arnold into the world’s best right-back is romantic but the Brazilian should save that for if – or when –he is actually a coach.

Furthermore, in that same aforementioned interview, Kleberson, who is a coach at Philadelphia Union, admitted he has tried to tempt his compatriot to join him in MLS.

In America, Alves would have the dream lifestyle and as long as he picked the right club, would have first team football absolutely nailed down. He could have a tonne of fun without the added pressure of being at a Champions League club, while the wisdom he could pass on to some of the younger MLS players would be invaluable.