Serial trophy-collector Dani Alves shows no signs of letting up
At 36 years young, Brazil captain Dani Alves could be forgiven if he was thinking of hanging up his boots and admiring his bursting trophy cabinet.
Belo Horizonte (Brazil) (AFP): At 36 years young, Brazil captain Dani Alves could be forgiven if he was thinking of hanging up his boots and admiring his bursting trophy cabinet.
Instead, Alves is preparing to play a key role when Brazil take on Peru in Sunday's Copa America final at Rio de Janeiro's Maracana stadium, and the full-back is showing no signs of letting up.
"I know how old I am, and I know what that means in football, but I've learnt that people want results," said Alves, currently without a club having announced last month he was leaving Paris Saint-Germain.
"I'm focussed on that, I'm not focussing on my age nor what people think of me. I'm not here to shut anyone up, I'm simply here to do my job."
As it is, his trophy cabinet already contains one Copa America title and according to some lists, more trophies than years he's been alive. He's won the Champions League three times, the old UEFA Cup twice, the Club World Cup three times, European Super Cup four times -- and that's just at European continental club level.
Six La Liga crowns with Barcelona, two French Ligue 1 titles with Paris Saint-Germain and one Serie A with Juventus, not to mention eight domestic cups across Spain, France and Italy. With Brazil he won the 2007 Copa America and two Confederations Cups.
Any suggestions he might be satisfied with what he's won so far were dispelled within 20 minutes of Tuesday's 2-0 semi-final victory over Argentina when he took three Argentina players out of the game in creating the opening for Roberto Firmino to cross for Gabriel Jesus to open the scoring in Belo Horizonte.
Alves's skill was a thing of beauty as he latched onto a dropping ball, chipped it over the head of Marcus Acuna, sent a sliding Leandro Paredes the wrong way and then left Nicolas Tagliafico chasing shadows with a no-look pass to Firmino.
From then on, Brazil were in the box seat and they secured victory, and a place in the final, with Firmino's tap-in from a Jesus pass after the Manchester City forward's determined charge on the counter-attack. What led up to that goal was another example of Alves's single-minded commitment to the cause.
Off the ball, and unseen by the referee, Alves barged over Sergio Aguero in the area. Aguero wasn't involved in the play at that time, but Alves was taking no chances.
It was illegal, it was a foul, it should have resulted in a penalty but Alves got away with his win-at-all-costs approach, something that has long stood him in good stead.
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni complained after the final whistle that the result was unfair on his team, claiming they had been "superior". But without such light blue and white tinted glasses, there was no doubt the hosts were the better side and that Alves was the standout performer -- no mean feat given how well Jesus played, nor that fact that Lionel Messi showed glimpses of his incomparable best.
Whether Brazil win or not on Sunday, Alves is already regarded by many as the most successful player in history. UEFA places him at the top of its list of major trophies won by a player in Europe with 29, with Messi only joint fourth on 26.
In another list, that takes into account trophies won with national teams as well as domestic Super Cups omitted from UEFA's list, Alves is top with 39 trophies. "Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine arriving where I have," Alves told Fox Sports in an interview a few months ago.
"I come from poverty, from a reality that many people around the world experience. When I left home at 15 my aim wasn't to win many things, but to return home and that my parents be proud of me."
After a career that has taken him from Sevilla to Barcelona, Juventus and PSG, and 114 appearances for the national team, Alves now hopes to be an inspiration to others from a similar background. "My aim is for this to inspire youngsters, the little dreamers to have a go, to never give up," he told Fox.