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Dani Alves: A player this special is always welcome at Arsenal

Dani Alves: A player this special is always welcome at Arsenal

Forget his age, free-agent Dani Alves is the one player Arsenal really should sign this summer.

It's been a remarkable few months in the extraordinary career of Dani Alves. After securing a second successive French league title for PSG, he has now captained Brazil to the second Copa America triumph of his career—12 years after the first. The silverware takes his personal trophy haul to 40. At 36, he is the first player in the game’s recorded history to reach that landmark.

There have been plenty of individual accolades too, the latest being the Golden Ball for being the Copa’s best player. Alves is at retirement age, yet finds himself as one of the hottest free agents in the game. That’s where Arsenal come in. Much has been made of their limited spending power this summer, so the prospect of attracting such a fantastic player for free has an obvious appeal. It might not seem sensible, and it may not appear particularly realistic, but one thing is certain: it would be fun.

The Gunners could certainly use a right-back. Hector Bellerin is still recovering from a cruciate ligament injury and is expected to miss the start of the season. Even once he’s fit, it would be sensible to ease him back into regular football. Versatile youngster Ainsley Maitland-Niles has provided cover in his absence but may be required to step into midfield this season after the departure of Aaron Ramsey. With youngster Jordi Osei-Tutu out on loan at VFL Bochum, the only alternatives would be Calum Chambers and Shkodran Mustafi, both of whom look more comfortable in central areas.

Alves is far more than just a right-back. He is one of the few players capable of single-handedly dominating an entire. He is probably the individual who deserves most credit for the reinvention of the role. In the 1990s, it occasionally felt like the full-back was one of the team’s more functional players. Now, they’re positionally-adept playmakers. 

Of course, it’s impossible to discuss the prospect of signing Alves without mentioning his age. At 36, he would be the oldest outfield player to join the club in modern history—older even than Sol Campbell when he returned for his second spell with the club in 2010.

Arsenal have been burned by signing a veteran right-back before. Last summer, they recruited Stephan Lichtsteiner on a free transfer from Juventus. Throughout his time in north London, he looked off the pace and past his best. 

However, the Alves situation is entirely different. He is still operating at the highest level—in fact, it was his presence at Juventus in 2016/17 that relegated the younger man, Lichtsteiner, to second choice.

His availability on a free transfer means Alves could be considered a pragmatic signing—but let’s be honest, it’s primarily a romantic one. This generation of Arsenal fans have been reared on attractive, attacking football, and few players embody that quite so obviously as Alves. He would bring flair and finesse (not to mention width) to a team sorely lacking in those qualities last season.

Who better for Bellerin to learn from than the man who redefined what a right-back can be? He would not just be competition and cover: he would be a true mentor. 

There are factors that could prohibit any potential deal. Despite the lack of a transfer fee, Alves would command a hefty salary, with no residual value. He also might be loath to join a club without Champions League football, especially when you consider he’d likely have to share playing time with Bellerin. Alves’ last three clubs are Barcelona, Juventus and PSG. Comparatively, Arsenal feels like a step-down. 

It’s not the signing Arsenal need most. Arguably, investing a chunk of Arsenal’s already stretched salary budget in Alves would represent a footballing folly. However, it would bring an injection of real star power to the club. At a time when Arsenal’s footballing identity feels particularly ethereal, Alves’s arrival would assert some of those ideals.

It’s not going to happen. But I doubt there’s a single season ticket holder who wouldn’t enjoy it. The Alves show rolls on. The fans of whichever club he pitches up at next are in for a treat.






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James McNicholas
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