The big interview: Dani Alves – "I don’t hide my admiration for Guardiola and will to play in the Premier League"
Portrait: Antoine Doyen
Paris Saint-Germain’s 2-1 victory over Monaco in July 2017’s French Super Cup may not have made many headlines, but to one Brazilian in particular, it proved a very significant moment.
“There are thousands and thousands of football players all around the world,” Dani Alves tells FourFourTwo during our visit to his new home city, “but this little lad from Juazeiro, in the countryside of Bahia, is able to say he’s the one to have won more titles than any other – this is something unimaginable.”
That trophy was Alves’s 34th top prize as a professional, making him the most decorated player currently active. Now he is ready to answer your questions on a career that has seen him go from the farmyard through to the hall of fame ...
You worked on a farm when you were a youngster – what kind of tasks did you have to do? Can you milk a cow?
Daniel Tayasco, Peru
I used to do lots of jobs on the farm and those tasks are like riding a bike – you never forget how to do it. I’d help with whatever needed to be done: milking the cows, weeding. That would actually be the job I would recommend a child not to do because you’ll be dealing with chemicals and it’s dangerous. However, when your family are in a really difficult situation, and when you see your father working so hard for everyone, you have got to give him a hand, no matter what.
Your fashion style is unique – where do you get the inspiration for the kind of colourful suit that you sported at the Best FIFA Football Awards in 2017?
Junior Leoes, via Facebook
My inspiration just comes from a desire not to look the same as everybody else. When I first got interested in fashion, it was because I wanted to wear different things. I didn’t want to appear similar.
Your instinct is always to get forward, so did you like to operate as a winger before eventually moving to full-back?
Doug Powell, via Facebook
Actually, I used to be a forward. When my father started the project of helping me become a football player, his desire was to see me in attack, scoring goals. I was the No. 9, or sometimes 10 or 11. Then, when I went to a football school, everyone else wanted to be a forward. You can’t have a team made up only of forwards. I guess maybe because of my height, speed or playing style, I was able to adapt to other positions quite easily. Down the years, I've played in pretty much every position apart from keeper.
Who were your heroes growing up? As a fellow attacking full-back, did you want to end up emulating Cafu?
Marcos Sousa Santos, via Twitter
My football idol when I was growing up was my father. He used to love football so much. When I started to understand his passion, I entered into the football world and learned to admire the great players. And of course, Cafu was always an inspiration because of his amazing history and achievements with Brazil.
Do you remember playing against and defeating Andres Iniesta’s Spain in the 2003 World Youth Championship Final with Brazil? Did you ever remind him of this when you were at Barça?
Carlos Allende, via Facebook
Well, it was inevitable that I would make a few jokes! [Laughs] It was something special and a unique experience for all of us. We were youngsters, dreaming of being successful professional footballers. I was lucky enough to already be playing in Europe during that time. But I can say that championship still represents a big turning point for my career. I had been on loan with Sevilla, but there had been doubts about whether I should remain and occupy one of the spots for foreign players.
You played alongside a young Sergio Ramos at Sevilla. Could you tell that he would become a great defender? And was it strange to end up being a direct rival of his during Clasicos?
Marta Rivero, via Facebook
Yes, of course. Sergio already had great qualities even back then. He wanted to play as a full-back but we could all see his potential to be a good centre-back – a position where he could have more success. Fortunately for Sergio – not to mention for Spain and Real Madrid as well – he went on to become a fantastic central defender who is admired by the whole world.
I don’t think he would have achieved the same status at right-back. Obviously he could also play there very well – and did it many times, including for Spain – but he soon realised that he could become one of the world’s best in another position. It was tough to have him as a rival, but that’s what happens when you are at Madrid or Barcelona – it’s kind of like a clause in your contract when you sign for one of them. But the rivalry shouldn't go beyond the pitch.
- 2001-03 Bahia
- 2002-03 Sevilla (loan)
- 2003-08 Sevilla
- 2008-16 Barcelona
- 2016-17 Juventus
- 2017- Paris Saint-Germain
How close did you actually come to signing for Liverpool back in 2006? Were you annoyed when the move to England eventually fell through?
John Stirzaker, via Facebook
Mate, I pretty much had an agreement with Liverpool. But for whatever reason it didn’t happen at the last moment and I really don’t know why, as I wasn’t the one conducting the negotiations. I had other people representing me back then. I’m not sure what the reasons were for the move not going through, although something similar happened later in my career with Chelsea and Real Madrid.
Of course, it all worked out happily for the Cules [Barcelona supporters] in the end, and also for me as I was able to write an amazing story at the Camp Nou instead.