Brazil are considered favorites to win the 2022 FIFA World Cup, with a loaded squad full of superstars and top global talent. That’s what made the inclusion of 39-year-old Dani Alves all the more surprising.
Head coach Tite revealed his roster for the tournament in Qatar on November 7, and there were generally few surprises. Neymar is the crown jewel of the Brazil squad, but the 26-man list is chock full of household names like Alisson, Casemiro, Vinicius Jr, and Gabriel Jesus.
Still, there was one name many didn’t expect to see: Former Barcelona and current Pumas UNAM right-back Dani Alves, who will play in his third World Cup after 2010 and 2014. He was an injury cut for the 2018 edition in Russia.
With 125 caps to his name, Alves is no stranger to the national team, but as his career fades with time, he was not considered a likely pick to be part of the 2022 World Cup. Yet here he is, continuing to hang around, much to everyone’s surprise.
How old is Dani Alves?
At the start of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Dani Alves will be 39 years old.
The well-traveled right-back spent the majority of his peak years with Barcelona, where he played from 2008-2016 and again for the second half of the 2021/22 season. While at the Camp Nou, Alves helped Barcelona hoist six La Liga titles, four Copa del Rey championships, three Champions League crowns, and three Club World Cup titles.
He now plays for Liga MX side Pumas UNAM, a club he joined in July, which is mid-season for the Mexican top flight. He made 12 appearances for the club, assisting on four goals. However, the team won just one of those 12 games, finishing 13th in the Apertura table and missing the playoffs, a massively disappointing achievement for the big Mexican club.
MORE: Oldest players in FIFA World Cup history
How Tite explained Dani Alves World Cup inclusion
Tite shook off the notion that Dani Alves was selected for his experience and leadership qualities, saying he was held to the same standard as everyone else in the Brazil squad.
“Dani Alves’ criteria is the same as everyone else’s,” Tite said during the reveal of the Brazil World Cup roster on November 7. “It rewards technical and individual quality. It rewards the physical aspect, and he brings the mental aspect. Just like the others.”
Tite continued, saying that there are fewer attacking responsibilities for full-backs in the Brazil squad due to the exceptional attacking talent in front of them on the wing.
“People have to understand that the full-backs in the Brazilian team play with wingers, there’s no full-back that will work offensively, you’ll have to work as a constructor,” Tite said. “The technical quality that Dani Alves lends in this regard is impressive The technical quality he has is that of an articulator, an organizer — not a player running 60 and 70 meters back and forth. He has the ability to organize.”
That last quote is particularly odd, as the qualities that Alves brings are far more skewed towards the attacking half, and his defensive capabilities have waned significantly with age. He was a defensive liability in his most recent stint with Barcelona, and with Pumas he has also struggled to keep opposing players in front of him.
Why Dani Alves was called up by Brazil for 2022 World Cup
Since the Brazil roster was released, the selection of Alves by Brazil manager Tite has confounded fans and media.
Several point out that clubs around the world didn’t jump at the chance to sign him when provided the opportunity, leading to his signing with Pumas UNAM in Mexico. Also, he has been training with Barcelona’s B team to get into shape for Qatar.
The only real asset that Alves brings on the surface is experience, though he’s unlikely to see the field much in Qatar barring any significant injuries to the incumbent starting right-back Danilo.
The Dani Alves resume is unmatched and he’s considered the most decorated player in history. In 2021 he helped Brazil win Olympic gold, starting every match and playing every minute at the age of 38.
Dani Alves has now won 43 trophies in his career following his Olympic Gold 😱
The most by any player in history! 🔥 pic.twitter.com/aRbrnhWmbP
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) August 7, 2021
Some have made the argument that there are few better options at right-back, which is a serious knock on Tottenham full-back Emerson Royal, who admittedly is having a tough time defensively at Spurs this season.
Still, Alves hasn’t been great defensively either, earning a clean sheet in just one of his 12 appearances for Pumas.
Where Alves does excel, however, is in the attack. His four assists in Liga MX are just the tip of the iceberg, as Opta credited Alves with 3.5 chances created (shot assists) per game, the highest in the Liga MX Clausura. He was also rated by SofaScore with the highest mark of any Brazilian right-back in the selection pool.
3.5 – Dani Alves created 3.5 chances per game in the Liga MX this season, the most of any player in the tournament. Meritocracy. pic.twitter.com/jsysnmtm8T
— OptaJoao (@OptaJoao) November 7, 2022
Ultimately, the experience Alves brings to a relatively young Brazil squad was deemed invaluable by Tite. It’s unlikely he will see much playing time, and if he does, he will likely be a defensive liability, but his attacking contributions were enough to see him into the group in what will be a more leadership role than anything else.
Reaction to Dani Alves Brazil call-up
TV Globo and Jornal O Globo columnist Guga Chacra delivered a pointed criticism:
“The best should be selected. Players with history like Daniel Alves could have deserved a chance if they were playing decently. This is not the case with him, and he’s declined some time ago. Sad, but it’s reality.”
Convocar Daniel Alves dá quase na mesma que levar Cafu aposentado. Os melhores devem ser os escolhidos. Jogadores com história como Daniel Alves podem até merecer uma chance se estiverem jogando decentemente. Não é o caso dele, que decaiu faz tempo. Triste, mas é a realidade
— Guga Chacra 💚 (@gugachacra) November 7, 2022
UOL’s Rafael Oliveira notes that “although it’s difficult to defend Dani Alves for his latest stretch [of matches], his inclusion is natural: because he’s trusted, because there’s no better option (for experience and quality), and for being more useful than taking another central defender.”
Bremer, Martinelli e Daniel Alves são as notícias.
Sobre a lateral, embora seja difícil defender Daniel Alves pelo recorte recente, acho a presença bem natural. Por confiança, por não ter opção superior (em experiência e qualidade) e por ser mais útil que levar um zagueiro a mais
— Rafael Oliveira (@OliveiraRafa) November 7, 2022
Another reporter commented that “contrary to practically every other World Cup, we don’t have the best full-backs in the world.”
Sobre o Dani Alves, eu não levaria.
Porém, ao contrário de praticamente todas as outras Copas, não temos mais os melhores laterais do mundo.
— Leandro Cabido (@leandrocabido) November 7, 2022
Goleada da Zoeira took the lighter side on the news: “The only good side of calling up Dani Alves is that he probably will wear the No. 13 shirt as a back-up full-back” in reference to the unlucky No. 13 jersey.
O único lado bom da convocação do Daniel Alves é que ele provavelmente vestirá a camisa 13 como lateral reserva. pic.twitter.com/xlhbkrSlx9
— Goleada da Zoeira (@goleadadazoeira) November 7, 2022