A long-running, dramatic transfer saga has ended with Barcelona star Dani Alves taking his talents to… Barcelona.
Wait, what? This isn’t how it was supposed to end, with a two-year deal and everyone being happy. It was supposed to end with Alves signing for Manchester United or Liverpool because they offered him more money and more respect, with the Brazilian sorta-defender slamming Barça in a press conference.
Damn, Dani. You gotta do these things right. Where’s your respect for the linear narrative? For the reporters who’ve spent months chronicling your inevitable exit in an erudite and hilarious fashion?
It wasn’t just idle speculation on our part, though. (For once.) Because Alves was playing a big part in the shaping of the plot: “I’ve got a foot out [of Barcelona], a body out, and almost a head out, too,” he said last month.
If Barcelona truly hadn’t been offering him a market-value contract extension, as Alves implied, it always looked a bizarre decision considering his importance as a source of assists for Leo Messi, the lack of competent understudies and the club’s transfer ban.
But now the 32-year-old has a new deal and a new story to tell: he was persuaded by Messi and by the outpouring of love and emotion at the treble celebrations in the Nou Camp on Sunday. And two days later, everything was signed.
“Messi said to me ‘’Dani stay, where are you going to be better than here?’” Alves said, according to ESPN. “And for a long time we have said that we live very well at this club. We have the things we need in this city. A year ago, when there were rumors that they wanted to sign Leo and wanted to sell me, we spoke and he said there was nowhere better than here.
“Until the celebration at the Camp Nou, not just for the fans but also my teammates, when I was won over emotionally, I was not going to stay. [Then] I felt I had been wrong, that the fans do love me here, they value me, and these things pushed me to this decision.”
Any time a player says he’s doing something for the fans, the arrow on the bullshit-o-meter starts twitching. And we’ve heard this tale so often before – a player’s unhappy, disrespected, airing his grievances in the media, linked with other clubs, and then, all of a sudden, he’s staying and all’s good. It’s how negotiations work: leverage, brinkmanship, PR.
Still, the way Alves plays and talks — passionate, all-in, open — might give us reason to believe, without being naive, that he’s telling the truth. And that this is a heart-warming happy ending, rather than the predictable, cynical conclusion to a piece of business.