Dani Alves has started 9 out of 11 Champions League matches and 28 of the 36 La Liga matches this season. No player has started more games this season than Alves, bar Lionel Messi. It's more than fair to say he's an undisputed starter, at least as far as the coach is concerned.
However, questions have arisen over his effectiveness, to the point that Barcelona is not committed to renewing his contract despite the fact that the management does not trust any of his replacements (Martino Montoya, Douglas, or Adriano) and cannot sign another for another window.
Against Bayern Munich, though, Alves was in vintage form. He wasn't just good - he was spectacular. He put in tackles and interceptions with class. In attack, he showed his flash. He sett up Luis Suarez with a chance via flying volley. He dribbled people, nutmegging a few, and completed unlikely passes. He nearly - nearly - had a goal, but his poke towards the net was saved by a brilliant Manuel Neuer.
And with the score still level, on came his biggest moment. He flew in and robbed Juan Bernat as the Bavarians went forward for a counter. He nutmegged the next Bayern player who tried stealing it back. The Germans were nervous, and they converged towards Alves, the immediate threat.
The Brazilian calmly squared to Messi, who finally found some shooting space. His dagger past Neuer is to be lauded, but the chance was set up expertly by Alves.
And with Barcelona up 2-0, the right-back participated again. Bayern were on the attack and swung in a cross. Alves positioned himself correctly and got his head to it. Not only did he clear it, he lobbed it towards Luis Suarez, who began the counterattack. The ball found its way to Messi, then Neymar, then to the back of the net. 3-0.
Surely, Barcelona are hoping Alves can continue his magic in the second leg tomorrow and into a possible final. It helps that Franck Ribery, his direct matchup, is still out injured, but it's not as if Thomas Müller is not world class. Müller's replacement during the match, Mario Götze, isn't bad, either.
Both are German internationals who played huge roles in their country's World Cup win. (Incidentally, Alves didn't play when Germany thrashed his Brazil 7-1, but it probably still felt good to have some measure of revenge. Maybe he should have played.)
His dominating display was a surprise considering he's had his wobbles lately.
Throughout the season, Alves has been a bit up and down. In defense, he's been punished often but at the same time, he's often had to handle overloads by himself. Instead of the tireless Alexis Sanchez protecting the right flank alongside him, Alves has to account for the fact that Messi - while defending more than in previous seasons - will rightfully reserve his energy for big moments in attack.
Ivan Rakitic and to a lesser extent Xavi have provided cover but it has still left him one-on-one, where he's prone to making errors at least as often as brilliant plays.
In attack, Alves has been an underrated source of inspiration. In the Champions League, he's second on the team in assists after Messi and tied with Andres Iniesta. He has created countless chances in both competitions though he has yet to score a goal - a testament to his selflessness.
His main flaw has been crossing - but even that is improving. He's set up goals for Neymar and Messi to score with their heads in the past few games... not exactly huge targets to aim for.
Alves must know that his time at Barcelona could be coming to an end. He's desperate to show his worth to the team. With big athletes, it's not really about the money always, but what it represents. A big paycheck is nice, of course, but it is tangible proof that Alves still matters, a lot. He's already made a good case. Time to seal the deal.