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Dani Alves: Comfortably the Best Fullback in Barcelona History

Alves will be missed.

Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

Dani Alves is leaving, which has been a long time coming, but it's still surreal. The fullback has been a fixture of Barcelona's right flank for a long time, and while his decline was undeniable, he was still a game changer for the Blaugrana even in his latter years.

Let's not forget who got that amazing assist that secured the Liga title - it was classic Alves, using superhuman effort to chase what looked like a lost cause and superior technique to hook it across for Luis Suarez to poke into the net.

No one can forget him winning the ball high up the pitch against Bayern Munich before dishing it to Lionel Messi to wallop home the season prior. These are moments, moments that sometimes followed some mistakes, but still big moments. In the twilight of his Barcelona career, he was still an undisputed starter and very effective.

However, the less dominant, but still good Alves may be underselling his legacy.

Alves's peak roughly came from about 2006 to 2011, and in that time, the man was simply a beast. His stamina was never-ending, but it wasn't just that, it was technique, vision and unselfishness in attack. But it wasn't just THAT either. Forget the lazy stereotypes about Brazilian fullbacks, Alves was a very good defender at his peak.

Alves's peak began at Sevilla, when he won a Copa del Rey and threatened to help break the duopoly and win the title. Sevilla never did, but they came awfully close, closer than in a very long time.

He was Sevilla's best player at the time, and perhaps that would be better understood had he played a different position. He did it all for them, including playing on the left and upfront.

That caught the eye of Barcelona, who paid what many thought was a crazy fee for a defender - €32.5 million - for his services. At Barcelona he fit right into Pep Guardiola's side, often acting as part of the glue that kept the team together.

His brash, boisterous personality was sometimes at odds with the more meek players at Barcelona, but instead of creating conflict, he balanced the team's temperament for the better. His relationships with Messi and Neymar were very close and genuine. Could he get out of line? Sometimes, but often he was just being real. Some people didn't like him, but no one would tell you he was fake. That's why, on balance, he was a popular personality in the dressing room and in the stands.

The way he redefined the fullback position makes him the best such player in Barcelona's history by far, and possibly the best ever.

He essentially was two players at once, a fullback and a right-winger, and it greatly benefitted Messi cutting in from the right. We have to mention Alves winning the league 6 times, the Copa another 4 times, the Champions League 3 times, the sextuple, the double treble... and other things. Of course we have to.

But in the final review it won't just be the trophies, or his peak, or his longevity. No, there's another factor that will necessitate his name be mentioned in any compilation about the history of Barcelona, or indeed, world football, and it's one Alves is quite cognizant of.

"I've set up more goals for Messi than anyone at Barcelona, That's a fact. Some people might not like it, but it's there for everyone to see."

He's totally right. It's not Xavi, and it's not Andres Iniesta. Dani Alves assisted 42 of Messi's goals. Iniesta* and Xavi, 33.

"When we retire, people will ask: 'Who was the greatest?'," he said. "Messi. And who gave him the passes? Dani. My name is there - whether people like it or not."

*Technically Iniesta could surpass him, but come on now.

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