Monday 29 January 2018, 07:54

Alves: Neymar had to step out of Messi’s shadow

  • Dani Alves speaks exclusively to 

  • Hopes to make 2018 one of his most memorable years to date

  • Brazil star talks PSG, Neymar, Messi and Russia 2018  

Dani Alves has spent his career playing for some of the biggest clubs in the world, winning virtually everything there is to win in the process, while also playing a very prominent role with Brazil.

Yet despite his outstanding career record, the larger-than-life full-back wants more, and is hoping to make 2018 one of his most memorable years to date. His first objective is to help Paris Saint-Germain win the UEFA Champions League for the first time in their history, with a last-16 tie against Real Madrid providing the next obstacle in that quest.

At the end of the European club season, Alves will pull on the Brazil jersey and set about the task of helping them lift a sixth FIFA World Cup™, a trophy A Seleçao last won in 2002. The charismatic defender spoke to us about these challenges, his team-mate Neymar, and more besides. You won the lot with Sevilla, Barcelona and Juventus, so why move to Paris Saint-Germain, a club with less in the way of history perhaps? Dani Alves: That was the biggest motivating factor when it came to making the decision. I don’t like to stay in my comfort zone. I enjoy a challenge, and the chance to change the club’s history was an adrenaline rush for me. That’s why I came. And then there was the fact that I’d be living in a great city and coming to a team with lots of ambition.

I know people might think that I went for the money, but that’s not the case because I had lots of other really good offers. In fact, I went through the same process with Barcelona. The club was going through a transitional period when I arrived and I ended up being part of the best team in their history. I want to experience that same kind of joy again, but in a place with less tradition, where you can lay a large stone in what they’re building. I want to win here and help the club change its destiny.

Having Neymar in the dressing room is a sign of that ambition. How much of a role did you play in him coming to the club? I hardly had anything to do with it, though I was involved when he signed for Barcelona. I gave him some advice and told him about all the good things I’d experienced at the club and in the city. But it wasn’t like that this time. It was just a case of me getting here before him (laughs), though there was a moment when he was unsure about what to do. I just told him to follow his heart and be happy. That was the only advice I gave him.

Do you think Neymar is ready to be the best in the world? I think he’s up there with Messi as the most influential player in world football. The thing is, he had to come out of his shadow a little. Playing with someone as unique as Leo is the most incredible thing that can happen to you, but there’s always that doubt in your mind if it’s you that really has the quality or if it’s him.

I always loved playing with him, but he’s Argentinian and Ney and I are Brazilians. Sooner or later we had to come up against each other (laughs). I think you’ve got a better chance of achieving things individually when you’re not so close to a player like him. It was important for Ney’s own development and for Brazil for him to follow his own path.

You’ve both said that you’re dreaming of winning the Champions League with PSG. Is that an achievable dream? That’s what we’re setting our sights on. It’s our main goal. It’s what Neymar was thinking when he left Barça and it’s what I was thinking when I left Juve. That’s what moves us. That’s what excites us, gets our adrenaline pumping. The world belongs to the brave. If you’re not brave, you’re always in the shadows and that’s not where we want to be. We had nothing in Brazil and we wanted to make something of our lives.

You need more than big names to win a competition like the Champions League. You can have great players but if you don’t have a team you’re not going to make it. We’re ready to compete, and the question of whether that preparation leads us to victory or elimination is going to depend on how we work as a team.

And after that comes the World Cup. Brazil avoided the other big guns in the Final Draw. Is that the first step to the world title? It really doesn’t matter to me who we play against. In a competition like that you have to beat everyone. If we’d got Spain, what were we going to do? Run away? Nobody becomes world champions by playing against weak teams. We’ll have to face the best sooner or later, and beat them, because we really want to win the Trophy.