Monday 10 April 2017, 06:03

Dani Alves: I came to Juventus for a new challenge

  • Juventus defender all set to face former club Barcelona for the first time

  • Alves made 247 appearances for Los Azulgrana over eight seasons, scoring 14 goals

  • “I left because I didn’t feel as comfortable anymore”

Only two years after facing off in the final, Juventus and Barcelona will cross swords again on Tuesday in Turin in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final tie.

Many of the players on duty that night in Berlin will be lining up against each other again at the Juventus Stadium, although one of them will be attracting more attention than most: veteran Brazilian full-back Dani Alves, who has swapped sides in the meantime.

The 33-year-old defender explained to how he is gearing up for the reunion with his former club. Having spent so many years in Spain, how does it feel to be in a different country and with a new club? Dani Alves: It’s different but it’s a challenge at the same time. It was strange to begin with, but I’ve always enjoyed a challenge, which is why I decided to make the move. I have to say that I didn’t feel as comfortable any more at Barça. Things changed at a club level, and as time went on, I always seemed to be the one in the firing line. “Dani’s the one who has to go,” they’d say. I just got tired of it. I decided to head off in a new direction and find happiness somewhere else.

  • Alves made his professional debut with Bahia in 2001.

  • He played for Sevilla from 2002 to 2008, winning the Spanish Copa del Rey once and the UEFA Cup twice.

All the same, it must have been strange for you to pull on the black and white jersey. Yes, it was! I played for the same team and with the same team-mates for many years. It’s weird, but that’s football. I’m a very restless person and new experiences excite me more than anything else. And that’s what I’m having right now with Juve.

What’s it been like to line up in defence with players of the calibre of Gigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci? They’re legends of the game. They’re excellent defenders, which is what you’d expect, because the Italian league is very demanding in that respect. Even when you’re playing in a more advanced position like mine, you have to work hard, be very competitive and defend well. That’s the step I’ve had to take in the few months that I’ve spent at my new club. I think I’ve taken on all the new ideas pretty quickly. I see myself as an intelligent person and I’ve kept my skill levels up while developing my game. If you want to improve, you have to maintain existing skills and learn new ones.

How do you see Barcelona now, from a distance? It’s strange! I’m sure they miss me (laughs)! I think they appreciated me as a professional, a football player, and as someone who was good to have around the place, who made every game unique, with a new dance or new music or whatever. I brought a bit of joy to the dressing room. I’ve spoken to them and they’ve told me that that’s what they miss about me the most: how happy I am and the way I am. They say I’m unique (laughs).

Is the Juve dressing room a very different place? That’s one of the challenges I’ve had to face. I need to feel joy in my life. I need some atmosphere. I’m a big believer in energy, and I feel that what you do on the pitch reflects who you are off it. That’s one problem I’ve had. In Italy, team-mates can be a bit serious and not very expressive. I’m the complete opposite! I’m happy, fun to be around, and I like to get an atmosphere going. I feel a bit restricted in that respect and it makes me think there’s something lacking (laughs). But like I said, it’s a challenge, and I think I have a lot to offer Juve. I hope they get used to me, but if they don’t, I’ll just try to fit in.”