It is not often that you hear Dunga talking at length about any of his players. After all, the Brazil coach has repeated stressed that 11 men win a football match together; not one individually.
Yet, in announcing his 23-man squad for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ at a press conference on 11 May, the former midfield enforcer was unusually effusive in his praise of one of the names on that list. That player was none other than Dani Alves, who, in the opinion of his coach, sums up the spirit of self-sacrifice in A Seleção.
In practically any other national side, the Barcelona man would be the first-choice right-back, a position currently filled by the imposing Maicon. Nevertheless, as Dunga explained to the assembled press, Alves has not let the situation get him down, telling the coach during a squad get-together that he would be more than willing to slot into another position. “Professor, don’t worry,” Alves said. “I’ll play wherever you need me to.”
Though he has not always been a starter for Brazil, the buccaneering right-wingback has still managed to serve his country with distinction in recent times. Springing off the bench in the FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa 2009 semi-final against the hosts, Alves filled in at left-back and scored the winner from a free-kick. And in the 4-2 defeat of Chile in the South Africa 2010 qualifying competition he distinguished himself in an unaccustomed midfield role.
“No matter where you play or how long you’re on for, it’s always an honour to play for A Seleção,” the 27-year-old told FIFA.com. “My objective is to help out in whatever way is necessary, and to repay the faith that Dunga has put in me. And the best way I can do that is to keep on working.”
Now a firm favourite with the demanding Brazil fans, Alves has not always been a household name in his homeland. The winner of the adidas Bronze Ball at the FIFA U-20 World Cup UAE 2003, he left his native Bahia that same year, having made only a handful of appearances for his local club, Esporte Clube Bahia. His destination was Sevilla, where he rose to prominence in a side that quickly forced its way into the Spanish and European elites, winning back-to-back UEFA Cup titles.
An established star in La Liga and much-coveted by some of the biggest clubs on the planet, it was only a question of time before he would make the step up to the Brazil team. Dunga called him up for the first time in October 2006, with the highly regarded right-back earning the lasting admiration of the Seleção support the following year, when he scored in Brazil’s 3-0 defeat of Argentina in the final of the Copa America.
“That was definitely one of the most important goals I’ve ever scored,” he recalled. “It’s had a big bearing on my international career.”
His July 2008 move to Barcelona represented yet another big step forward for Alves. Teaming up with some of the finest players on the planet, he would enjoy a spectacularly successful 2009, a year in which he also continued to shine for his country.
“Everything that has happened to me at Barcelona and with Brazil recently has been just amazing,” he said. “But this is the start of a dream, the chance to take part in the World Cup, which is not something every player gets to enjoy. I want to make the most of it and do my bit for the team. Everyone in the side is going to give their very best in trying to reach our goal, which is to make the Final.”
As he plots his side’s course to that intended goal, one thing Dunga can be sure of is that the indomitable Dani Alves will do nothing less than give his very best, regardless of where he decides to deploy him.