The possibility of Dani Alves missing the World Cup is not just bad news for the Brazilian right-back. Among Tite’s most trusted players, the Paris Saint-Germain man is more than just a guaranteed starter. He is a leader, captain, role model, key figure for Neymar and has many other attributes that are valued by the coach, who is set to name his squad on Monday.
According to his spokesman, Alves suffered “a high detachment of the anterior cruciate ligament with posterolateral sprain.” The right knee injury, which Alves suffered during the French Cup final against Les Herbiers, will require three weeks of care before re-evaluation. PSG have not ruled out the need for surgery.
Since taking the helm, Tite has called up only five right-backs other than Alves. Marcos Rocha and Mariano do not appear to be in the coach’s plans, which leaves Fagner, Danilo and Rafinha as the primary contenders for the position. However, they would all be considered a downgrade in comparison to Alves, and all pose their own separate issues.
Corinthians’ Fagner, for example, has had the most opportunities among the three players, having been called up on eight occasions — the same amount as Alves. The issue is that he has also been sidelined recently with a muscle problem in his right thigh and is only expected to return later this month.
Danilo was not a regular starter for Manchester City this season, and when he did play, Pep Guardiola not only used him at right-back but also on the left and in central midfield. For his part, Bayern Munich’s Rafinha has been called up only once by Tite and does not appear to be the coach’s preferred option.
Leadership and experience
Tite rotates the captaincy for Brazil, with 15 different players having worn the armband in 19 games. Alves has been named captain for four games, more than any other player, and the right-back was not just given the responsibility for any old games. Tite named him captain in several big games, against Germany (in their first meeting since the 7-1), Colombia (in the coach’s first game on home soil), Argentina and England.
Alves also has the most caps among the squad, and if he is not called up for Russia, the Brazilian team is unlikely to contain any players with more than 100 international appearances. In terms of the right-back role specifically, Fagner, Danilo and Rafinha have never played at a World Cup.
Alves’ experience and profile mean that he is consistently selected to face the media at the most difficult of times, something that began during the reign of Luiz Felipe Scolari.
Among Alves’ many outspoken remarks, he has regularly appeared in front of the press to defend Neymar in an attempt to ease the pressure on his compatriot. The pair, who played together at Barcelona and now at PSG, are friends on and off the field, and Neymar often pays tribute to the full-back as his idol and brother.
It was even down to Neymar’s influence that Alves ended up plying his trade in France. Their partnership began in Spain, when the full-back served as a role model to the former Santos star and helped him to adapt to life at Barcelona, while the pair have always been close on international duty, ever since the Scolari era.