With Dani Alves set to join Juventus on a two year deal, Just Football looks at potential targets who fill in the void the Brazillian ace will leave.
Dani Alves’ departure from Barcelona marks the end of an era. After 8 years and 23 trophies, the Brazillian’s ageing feet will now grace the Serie A champions Juventus. During his time with Barcelona, Alves has been more than just a right back for Barcelona. His blistering pace and his telepathic understanding with teammates made him invaluable to the team. He showed a great understanding of the game, whipped in crosses when needed and was never afraid to venture into the box if need be. Along with all this he kept up with his defensive duties almost perfectly. He notched 59 assists in La Liga and features on the La Liga All Time Highest Assists on the 3rd position. While it will be an emotional farewell for Barcelona fans and the player himself, looking for prospects to replace him is also an important step. Here is a list of players we think can replace the 32 year old.
Bellerin’s meteoric rise into Arsenal’s first team has been miraculous. The young Spaniard, a product of Barcelona’s academy itself, has all the traits to be the perfect long term replacement for Dani Alves. His pace and trickery down the right and his habit of getting behind the opposition’s defence and combining with the player ahead of him on the flank are everything Barcelona are looking for. He has previously admitted that he is “happy to attract interest” from Barcelona but it will be tough to pry him away from the Gunners considering that Wenger holds him in highest regards and would not want to lose him.
The former Sevilla man may have fallen out of favour at Camp Nou but he certainly must not be overlooked. Back on 17th January, 2016, when he made his first start for Barcelona, he proved his capability and what he could bring to the team. 6 years younger than Alves, who was benched for the match, he was quick on his feet and spot on in his movements. He moved high up the flank when Messi drifted inside and also covered Rakitic’s position when the latter moved wide. With the ball at his feet, he also whipped in some testing crosses. Although it wasn’t enough to take Alves’ spot, he was surely determined to provide strict competition. Things, however, did not turn out in his favour. He had to even compete with Sergi Roberto and then with his injury, it sealed his fate. Reports repeatedly appear that Barcelona might be interested in shipping him off but with Alves gone, that wouldn’t be a wise decision even if someone else is signed for the position.
Mattia De Sciglio
AC Milan legend Filippo Galli called him the club’s “pride and joy” and Franco Baressi praised his boldness and confidence which, according to him, reminded him of a young Maldini. The 23 year old AC Milan right back has risen through the ranks of the club and has kept Abate out of the starting line-up. He is two-footed, meaning he can also play as a left back. He even stepped up to fill in as a centre back when the club was hit by an injury crisis. He’s fast and has excellent positioning. His crossing has improved a great deal as the seasons have passed. In his first 59 games for AC Milan, he averaged to 2.5 tackles and 1.4 interceptions a game. In the 2013/14 season, he won 60% of the aerial duels and had a passing accuracy of 82.1%. For a club like Barcelona, where the game relies heavily on passing, these are some impressive stats. However, Luring him to Barcelona might be a bit of an uphill task, especially with AC Milan already trying to fend off interest from Juventus and Bayern.
The Tottenham and England right back is back to his former best under Pochettino. Like Dani Alves, he loves to camp high up in the opposition’s half and is excellent at tracking back and providing defensive cover too. He moves into open spaces out wide and has been one of the key ball providers for Harry Kane. While he may not be the best tackler, his aerial abilities and interceptions are impressive. He enjoyed his best season with Tottenham and has committed his future to them, although an offer from Barcelona might sway the balance.
Gregory Van der Wiel
Van der Wiel made only 17 appearances in Ligue 1 this season but his tackles and interceptions averaged to 2.5 and 3 per game, respectively. Also, he only made 0.8 fouls a game. His passing is a very strong attribute and so is his crossing. At 28 years of age, he may not be a very long term prospect for the club but he still could add value to it. Moreover, he may easily be the most readily available target since his contract with PSG expires this season and an offer from Barcelona may be too tempting to resist. They may have to battle with Manchester United to snap him up, though.
The young AS Monaco right back was signed by Claudo Ranieri when the club gained promotion to Ligue 1 back in 2013. Defensively, he is excellent. The 6’ 2”, long legged Brazillian, had an average of 3.2 tackles and 2.2 interceptions in Ligue 1 last season. He is a versatile player too, playing very comfortably and confidently in a defensive midfield role against Arsenal in the Champion’s League in February last year, where they claimed a shocking 3-1 victory. Although he loves to bomb forward down the right, he scored twice but did not provide a single assist in the 2013/14 and 2014/15 seasons. That changed in the 2015/16 season, when he scored 6 and assisted 4 goals. But given his tender age of 22, he has a lot of time to improve and adapt to the Barcelona style of football, which relies heavily on assistance from full backs in the final third of the playing field. Barcelona may have to fight both the Manchester clubs to his signing, though.
The left and right full backs of Barcelona have been very important positions in the system. The full backs essentially play as wing backs and fill in the gap when attackers move inside and therefore pace and crossing accuracy will certainly be something that Luis Enrique will be interested in. For me, Bellerin and Aleix Vidal fit the bill almost perfectly. But who will they actually sign? Only time will tell.
By Ankish (Intern)