Arriving at the start of the 2008/09 season, Dani Alves quickly became one of the stars of the Barcelona team, making an essential contribution on the right flank as the Catalans swept to a majestic treble.
The bubbly Brazilian full-back is gearing up for what he hopes will be yet another trophy surge this season, starting with the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2009. All-conquering Barça make their bow in the tournament next Wednesday, and Alves spoke exclusively to FIFA.com about that challenge and what promises to be an exciting 2010 for club and country.
FIFA.com: Dani, What does it mean to be taking part in the FIFA Club World Cup?
Dani Alves: It’s very important for me. I’ve followed the competition as a fan and it was time I got my chance to be on the inside. It’s also a unique opportunity for the club to finally win the one competition it has yet to get its hands on. And for us South Americans, the tournament is perhaps even more special. My team in Brazil is Sao Paulo and we’ve had the good fortune to win it more than once [including the old Intercontinental Cup]. The one that sticks out for me is when we beat the team I now play for! I hope to be able to make it up to Barça this time.
The team were big favourites in 2006 but lost in the final. What can you do to avoid a repeat of that?
It’s a short competition and there’s no margin for error, which means we have to be absolutely professional in what we do. On that occasion Internacional brought Barcelona right back down to earth and we need to learn from that. To win a tournament like this you have to study the opposition well. If you don’t, you could get a nasty surprise.
Last year was an unforgettable one for the club. Can you make it happen again?
Of course, you always have to try and improve a little. This year is different because everyone is that bit better prepared when they play us now and that makes things more difficult. But it’s up to us to make sure things go well. I think we’ve amazed everyone by doing something that not many sides have done, and that’s go from winning nothing in two years to becoming a benchmark in world football. That makes things tougher for us, but more attractive at the same time.
Barcelona’s win over Real Madrid is still fresh in the memory. Will that help your morale in Abu Dhabi?
When you win a game like that it makes you feel a whole lot more secure, and the more points you take off your direct rivals, the better. I’ve always believed that you need to make the most of your opportunities and that’s how I saw that week when we had those tough games against Inter and Real. We won both and we’re still on top in the league, which is a huge boost for us.
Turning to Brazil now, do you think the team are favourites to win their sixth FIFA World Cup™ title in South Africa?
I always say that Brazil are favourites in every competition. They are respected around the world thanks to their history and all the titles they have won, and the experts sometimes forget that when it comes to listing the favourites for the World Cup. Obviously it’s going to be a real challenge but when you have a solid and ambitious team like ours, where everybody pulls together, then I think you have to say we have a very, very good chance of winning.
You are one of the best right-backs in world football and yet you are not sure of a place in the national team. Would you consider playing in a different position?
I’ve always felt fortunate to be able to pull on the yellow and green jersey. It’s a privilege, especially when you consider the hundreds of players who’d love to have that same opportunity. My priority is to represent my country in the World Cup and I don’t care what position I play in: I just want to be there. I’m very ambitious and I want to start every game. That’s up to the coach, though, and all I can do is keep working hard.
Brazil have been drawn in a tough group.
There are no easy teams in the World Cup. What we have to do is get our preparations right, and the sooner we start knocking out our rivals, the better.
Last season you won three trophies ...
No, no, I won four. You’re forgetting the Confederations Cup!
That’s right, four. How many do you see yourself winning in 2009/10?
We’ve got two already, the two Super Cups, so that’s a good start. And winning the Club World Cup would keep the momentum going. I think you need to keep setting yourself major goals in life and we’re going to try and improve on last season. That won’t be easy, of course, but nothing is impossible.