Daniel Alves’s four brothers tell a story about him when he was just six years old growing up in Brazil. They explain he would not stop signing his name all over the walls in the house, as well as his notebooks, claiming that he was practicing his signature for the day he would be known all over the world.
Twenty-five years later, the whole soccer world is waiting to see where he signs his name this summer as the countdown on his Barcelona contract clicks toward zero. It will blow up at the end of June, yet Barça, unable to sign new talent until Jan. 2016, has still not offered him a new deal.
His preference is to stay in the Catalan city, close to his two young children, but he can’t bank on an offer that has still not been made. Instead, his agent, who also doubles as his ex-wife, Dinorah Santana, has been soliciting offers, air time and column inches.
She’s told anyone who will listen, although mainly hoping Barça is listening, that there is plenty of interest in her one-time partner from a collection of Europe’s high flyers. Paris Saint-Germain signed him last summer and signed him again last month, it’s said, so maybe a third time will come good when the season actually ends? Alves would no doubt feel at home in a samba backline featuring David Luiz, Thiago Silva and Maxwell.
When Marca reported he’d jotted his name in Paris recently, though, he took offense and took to Instagram, his favorite method of communication, to respond. On the photo-sharing site he called the Madrid-based newspaper out and said he is getting a “little tired of their shit.”
Diario SPORT, meanwhile, says Manchester United is the only club to actually make Dinorah and Dani a firm offer. Alves has previously spoken of his love for English soccer and the country’s atmosphere, and he even admitted to The Guardian’s Sid Lowe once that his favorite English side just so happens to be United.
But there’s no confirmation of anything. All the publications are tripping over each other in a rush to break where he will go, but there’s nothing: No Barça. No PSG. No Man United. Nothing, yet.
For his part, Alves appears in the opposite of a rush. That’s hardly surprising given there are few more laid-back, yet still completely enthralling, characters in Spanish soccer. The consensus is he prefers not to move on, but que será será.
Besides, he’s busy. When he’s not being a professional Instagrammer, singing, posing and flaunting it for the camera, he’s getting stuck into a new side-business with the Brazilian chef Joao Alcántara. The pair is indulging in the clustered pop-up food industry in Barcelona, fusing Brazilian and Catalan food for a series of events and evenings.
Then there’s his fashion. How you view what Alves wears probably says a lot about you; maybe even a lot about your age. But whatever your opinion is, his style is certainly interesting and you have to admire the man’s ability to shop and surprise.
And then, every now and again, he plays some soccer for one of the world’s greatest teams. Against Real Madrid in the recent Clásico, he was fantastic, against Celta Vigo at the weekend less so, but he still has a major role to play as Barça hunts for three trophies. Withholding an offer, the club in danger of underestimating just how much it still needs him to run around signing his name like a six-year-old.
This is a player who for large periods of his Camp Nou career has been without peers as a right back; who topped the assist standings in La Liga one season; who has enjoyed a dreamy relationship with Lionel Messi (on the field); and who has pulled on the blaugrana jersey well over 300 times. It is a man who has buzzed up and down Barça’s right flank for the last seven years only managing to bump into himself; a man who at times has looked as much like a right back as Elvis Presley looked like a karaoke singer.
He has been capped 79 times by Brazil, has won La Liga four times, the Champions League twice and has been named in FIFA’s team of the year on four occasions since 2009. It’s difficult to explain how impressive he was in Pep Guardiola’s Barça side, and even if age is catching up with him, there are still few full backs as good.
However, you can see Barça’s problem: Alves will be 32 in May. He wants a three-year deal and a large pot of money. Not being able to sign players until January leaves the club with its hands tied in many respects — the alternative is six months of Douglas or Martín Montoya — but it’s right not to heed to demands merely because it’s in a position of weakness.
President Josep Maria Bartomeu, who in all likelihood won’t be president Josep Maria Bartomeu after this summer’s elections, is reportedly panicking and will offer Alves a two-year deal soon. Luis Enrique wants to keep hold of him but doesn’t dabble in the economics. Alves, though, will probably continue to wait, hoping that an agreement is eventually reached with Barça.
He’s fine snapping away on Instagram and cooking up Brazilian food for now. The whole point of practicing his signature was for the day he was known all over the world, so he’s in no rush to scribble his name until he’s happy with what he’s signing. This could be the last big contract of his career. Any old wall or notebook won’t do.