FC Barcelona will be going though some changes this summer. Two players who will not be suiting up in Bluagrana will be Dani Alves and Marc Bartra. Alves has said he is looking for a new challenge. For Bartra, he'll finally get the playing time he deserves at Borussia Dortmund.
This piece is dedicated to Daniel Alves da Silva.
Let's be honest, for Dani, his time at the club ended just right. Alves is past his prime and in order for Barcelona to continue to succeed, it has to move on and see if their other potential right backs — Sergio Roberto and Aleix Vidal — have what it takes to become the full-time RB.
I won't say Roberto or Vidal will "replace" Dani Alves, because no one can replace him.
Dani is the greatest RB in club history. His arrival in 2008 was one of many key additions to the greatest club run of titles in football history. Under Pep Guardiola, Barcelona saw unprecedented success, and Dani was a key contributor.
It wasn't always a joyful time for fans with Alves. He came under heavy criticism shortly after 2012 for what appeared to be a dip in form.
Because it was a dip in form.
Like Gerard Pique, Dani Alves went through years of not playing up to the level all were used to seeing. This made fans frustrated, even asking whether or not Dani should be sold. Alves later returned to an improved level of play, but perhaps not to what it once was. Should Dani Alves have worked harder to get back to an elevated level of play? Yes. But he didn't and it's a shame.
Alves was and still is, at times, unorthodox in many aspects of...well, everything. From the way he dresses, to what he puts on Instagram, to what he says in interview, and, of course, to the way he plays. Dani's antics may have bothered traditionalists, but for many, Dani was a representation of football anti-establishment and he enjoyed the spotlight.
I'm not saying Dani Alves should be forgiven for all of his sins at Barcelona, but what I am saying is that Dani is who he is and the antics, etc., was part of the deal. There were some things I didn't like, but I forgave Dani because behind the madness, there was heart and the ability to create something special on the pitch.
At the end of the day, the team comes first and Dani Alves was, for the most part, good for the team.
Perhaps Dani Alves made bad crosses a bit too many times. But when one of his crosses into the box was on target, it had "goal" written all over it. Could Alves have dedicated more time to improve his defending? Of course. Maybe he would've helped Barça more by doing so. Or maybe Alves would have hurt Barça by doing so because his offensive mentality would have change, causing a chain reaction that could have hurt the team's system.
Dani has always said he never was or is the best defender, and for this era's Barcelona, that was acceptable. Sure, there were times a regular RB was needed to defend, but that wouldn't have brought the same success Barcelona has had if Dani Alves would not have been the club's RB. It was meant to be.
Dani Alves may have been high risk, but for Barcelona, he was certainly high reward.
There are many memories of Dani Alves at Barcelona that I'll never forget. For me, my favorite memory will be his cross into box that eventually led the ball to Andres Iniesta's right foot against Chelsea in the second leg of the 2009 UEFA Champions League semifinal. Dani's cross was near perfect, nearly finding the head of Bojan if not for Chelsea's defense. The ball went to Samuel Eto'o who passed it to Lionel Messi and Leo found Iniesta at the top of the box for the golazo.
No Dani Alves cross = no Iniesta goal, no CL Final win, no six trophies and no history made.
We'll all miss Alves' chemistry with Messi on the right side of the pitch. Dani's battles against Cristiano Ronaldo will also be missed. We can go on and on about what we'll specifically miss about Dani Alves at Barcelona.
Let's just say he left us lots of memories.
It is tough when a legend leaves. Yes, Dani Alves is a Barcelona legend. But like with Carles Puyol, Victor Valdes, Eric Abidal and Xavi, all legends must say goodbye to the present and live in the memories of history.
Dani Alves will always bleed blaugrana. Thank you, Dani, for all your hard work, dedication, passion, humor and style. But most of all, thank you for always staying true to yourself and never changing — regardless of the criticism. Come back to Catalunya once you feel it's time.
Note: I'd like to thank all of you for patiently waiting for me to return to writing. A special thanks to everyone at Barca Blaugranes and SB Nation for welcoming me back with open arms. Glad to be back. Visca el Barça!