Soccer

Barcelona's loss is Juventus' gain as Dani Alves leads the Bianconeri to the Champions League final

Dani Alves joined Juventus on a free transfer this summer followinga bitter split between he and Barcelona. The Catalan club, whom he'dhelped win dozens of trophies, wanted nothing to do with him anymore, instead believing that they'd be better off with someone younger than the 34-year-old.

Now, less than a year later, Barcelona are out of the Champions League and without a dependable right back. And Alves? He's helped Juventus to the Champions League final, putting forth a season's worth of performances that would have you confusing him with someone a decade younger.

Alves had a hand in every single one of Juventus' four goals against Monaco as the Bianconeri cruised to a 4-1 aggregate semifinal victory, and he capped off his incredible contributions with a stunning volley for Juve in the second leg.

The semifinal was essentially the Alves show, as he completely dominated the right flank all by himself. But for the Brazilian, the quarterfinal may have meant even more. After all, it was then that he stuck it to Barcelona -- the club that no longer wanted him.

"I like to be loved," he told ABC in February. "And if I'm not loved, I leave. Leaving Barcelona for free was a punch with class. In my last seasons I always heard that Alves was leaving, but the directors never said anything to my face.

"They were false and ungrateful. They didn't have respect for me. They only offered to renew my contract when the FIFA ban came into effect. So that's when I decided I wouldplay and I signed a renovation with a free clause. The people who run Barcelona have no idea how to treat the footballers."

When Barcelona decided to let Alves walk, it wasn't seen as an egregious error, though. Alves had regressed over the last couple seasons, still good, but beginning to look his age somewhat. It appeared as if Father Time was beginning to take over.

But the Alves who has shined for Juventus has looked nothing like the man who walked away from Barcelona. Instead, Alves has looked like the terrorizing right back of old, as if all he needed was a change of scenery and a new club to reenergize him. No longer does he look like a man whose career is winding down, but instead a dominant force, and that's because of his Italian move.

It all started when Alves returned from injury late in 2016. Ever since, he's been nearly unstoppable for The Old Lady.

Utilized both in a back four, and as a wingback in a back three, Alves' skillwith the ball, intelligent off-the-ball movement and unique playmaking ability have added an extra dimension to Juventus, and he's become one of the Bianconeri's most important attacking outlets.

In Max Allegri's fluid system, Dani Alves has had the freedom to attack down Juventus' right side, timing his runs from the back to devastating effect. His nonstop engine has seen him power down the wing over and over again, varying his service to put in teasing crosses, combine with his forwards' feet, or even go at goal himself.

Alves has never been known as a defensive stalwart, but, in keeping with the rest of his Juventus teammates, he's been fantastic on that side of the ball as well this season. He's averaging a stunning three tackles/game in Champions League, and he was superb in his role in the amazing job Juventus did to keep the ever-dangerous Neymar and the rest of his Barcelona teammates off the scoresheet for 180 minutes.

Alves was at his very best in the two ties against Bara and Monaco, showing off exactly why he was considered the best right back in the world for years. It was in stark contrast to the anemic performances Bara got from the men they looked to in place of Alves at right back, and his dominant performances were a painful reminder of exactly what the Blaugrana have been missing all this season.

Barcelona's loss is Juventus' gain though, and with Alves, they're now into their second Champions League final in three seasons. With his incredible experience and the run of form he's been in, they may even be considered favorites to raise the trophy.

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