Have Barca Found a Long-Term Replacement for Dani Alves?

Dani Alves is a Barcelona club legend. The Brazilian international contributed to an impressive 23 collective titles during his time at the Camp Nou, including three Champions League trophies and six La Liga crowns.

The way in which Dani Alves set the world on fire back in the 2008/09 season, under the watchful tutelage of the great Pep Guardiola, will forever remain at the heart of Cules all around the world.

While the Brazilian right-back had been impressive during his six seasons in Sevilla and always had the potential to become a great player, not many would have expected him to eventually become a six time FIFPro World XI starter.

Dani’s blistering pace, effortless physicality and high-quality touches set him apart from the vast majority of full-backs in world football. Off the pitch, his uncompromising winning attitude, paired up with his endless contagious energy, helped him become a beloved member of the best team that FC Barcelona has ever seen.

Dani Alves went on to defend Barcelona’s colours a remarkable 391 times, making him the club’s most capped foreign player only behind the one and only Lionel Messi.

While his game was not necessarily based on goal scoring, the Brazilian star did find the opponents’ net a significant 21 times – most of which came in spectacular fashion, often as a result as jaw-dropping long-range shots not many other professionals would have even dreamt of attempting.

Having said all the above, Dani has repeatedly admitted that, above all of the above achievements, he is particularly proud of being, still to this day, the player who has assisted Messi for the most goals in the Argentinean’s golden career.

As it has been widely documented, Dani Alves decided to leave Barcelona after countless disagreements with the Catalans’ board lead by Sandro Rosell, initially, then Josep Maria Bartomeu once his predecessor decided to run away unexpectedly in what can only be understood as an incredibly suspicious move.

Unfortunately, Barcelona has been struggling to find a worthy replacement for Alves ever since.

The Beginning of Barca’s Search for Alves’ Replacement

Have Barcelona found a long term replacement for Dani Alves?

During the first Alves-less season at the Camp Nou, under-pressure manager Luis Enrique decided to invest heavily in signing former La Masia graduate Aleix Vidal back from Sevilla. While it was clear from the very beginning that Vidal would never be fully capable of filling the Brazilian’s huge boots, the way in which Lucho continuously refused to give him regular playing time was hugely surprising. In all fairness, however, it is also worth mentioning that Vidal’s performances whenever trusted left far too much to be desired.

With that in mind, Luis Enrique had no option but to look at his bench for alternatives — with Sergi Roberto becoming the not-so-obvious choice almost immediately.

There’s no two ways about it: Sergi Roberto was pretty much thrown into the deep end and, in hindsight, being deployed in a position which is so significantly different from his ideal role as an interior midfielder could have massively backfired. However, his enviable self-belief, determination and intrinsic understanding of the Barcelona formation and mechanisms enabled him to not only meet the required standard for a Barcelona right-back, but exceed expectations – to the point that he ended the season with a couple of welcome call-ups for the Spanish national team.

After a season of showing his worth while deployed in a position which was clearly not his best, incoming Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde and his coaching staff correctly decided to grant Sergi his wish to be considered for a position in the Catalans’ midfield.

Despite having to compete with Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta, Ivan Rakitic, Arda Turan, Rafinha Alcantara, Denis Suarez, Andre Gomes, the returning Sergi Samper, promising Barca B youngster Carles Aleña and the newly-arrived Paulinho for a starting spot, Sergi Roberto was confident in his own ability. Even though it is still clearly early days in the 2017/18 season, his excellent performance in Barca’s 2-0 victory over Betis shows Valverde was right to move the La Masia graduate further up the pitch.

is semedo Barcelona’s long-term solution?

Nelson Semedo

Fully conscious of the obvious right-back gap caused by Alves’ departure, Vidal’s slow progression and Sergi Roberto’s new role within the team, the newly-arrived Barcelona manager was right to demand the signing of yet another full-back who could become a regular starter once and for all, and be a long-term, reliable solution.

Despite having chased former La Masia student Hector Bellerin for most of the summer’s transfer window, Barca had to look elsewhere given Arsenal‘s unreasonable transfer fee demands for the 22-year-old international.

Nelson Semedo was, clearly, the best alternative available in the market this summer. Although it is widely known that Benfica are a tough club to negotiate with, it is also apparent that the Portuguese club are generally willing to sell if the price is right – or, better put, if the player’s prospective club is capable of meeting their traditionally sky-high valuations.

The rest, as they say is history – in the making, of course. Barcelona agreed to pay an initial €30 million fee and a further €5 million for every 50 games Semedo eventually went on to appear in — a fee which could become astronomical if, as expected, the Portuguese youngster goes on to become a regular fixture in Valverde’s starting eleven.

Let’s be honest: Semedo was far from spectacular in his first few games with Barcelona. Having said that, the team’s new No.2 was one of the very few players who performed to an acceptable standard during the Spanish Supercopa that, regrettably, the Blaugranas lost to a much more mature Real Madrid team.

It is still early in the season but, fortunately, Semedo is progressively showing glimpses of greatness as games go by. Sure, he still is miles away of what Dani Alves offered at his peak, but ongoing comparisons with the Brazilian legend won’t do the Portuguese right-back any favours. Still, his physicality, pace pushing forward and willingness to track back promptly after being dispossessed are all encouraging factors.

While Barcelona fans are never going to get over the fact that Dani Alves will never again contribute to a Blaugrana victory on the pitch, it is obvious that the huge impact the Brazilian made during his time will never be forgotten – and rightly so.

However, Cules all around the world are encouraged to see that Semedo is the closest alternative since Alves’ inevitable departure.

Opinion column by Francesc Tomas of Barcablog.com and TheBarcelonaPodcast.com – As seen in ESPN and The Guardian.

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