Gareth Bale of Barcelona? He fits the bill, believes Dani Alves
The Premier League player who is most like Dani Alves is Gareth Bale – at least that was the opinion formed within Barcelona after the Tottenham man's destruction of Internazionale's Brazilian wing-back, Maicon, last season. "He is a player I love to watch," says Alves when asked about the Welshman, whom club scout Albert Valenti has watched several times this season.
Money remains a potentially insurmountable barrier to Bale ending up as Alves' team-mate, with Valencia's Jordi Alba looking a far more economical option. There are also doubts at the Nou Camp about Bale's ability to play in tight spaces as is often necessary at Barcelona against suffocating opposition – but they are not doubts shared by Alves.
"The idea Bale has of football is really quite similar to the Brazilian perspective," he says. "He is a full-back in the Brazilian style. In Europe they play more defensively so they tend to play him as a winger, but in my team he would be a full-back. He is a spectacular player."
The idea is that playing Bale in a deeper position gives him a running start at defences and introduces an element of surprise that he loses playing as a winger. Alves uses Roberto Carlos, who was briefly and disastrously used as a winger by Roy Hodgson in his time at Inter, as the perfect example.
"They put you further forward, thinking that you will attack more, but you actually end up attacking less effectively. Playing further back you are not going to attack as much but you are going to attack better.
"Roberto Carlos was the kind of player that if you put him up the top as a winger he would not play well. He was not technically as good as Bale. He attacked a lot coming from deeper and, being further up the pitch, it was harder for him. Bale is very good as a winger but I would have him at the back. At Barcelona he would be a full-back."
One thing Alves is very clear about is that Bale will not be signed simply because of the hype generated last season over those Champions League performances.
"Barça always sign players who they know will fit into the team. It's never a case of, 'Oh he's playing well. People are talking about him a lot so let's sign him.' Barcelona look at everything. They ask themselves if the player can fit 'here, here and here' and if they decide that yes, he would fit 'there, there and there', then they make their move."
Is there still time for Alves to move to the Premier League, having come close once before? "You always have to leave the doors open because we don't know what is going to happen tomorrow," he says. "I am at the best club in the world but you stay open to things because in football you serve a purpose for as long as you are delivering and, if the coach no longer needs you, then you don't serve a purpose any more and you have to look elsewhere."
And, as he says he has no interest in coaching when his career finishes, what about becoming a referee? He would certainly never have any trouble keeping up with play. He shudders: "I would never be able to make those decisions. People don't much like me as a footballer so imagine what it would be like if I was a referee."
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