Dani Alves: We are the club to beat

Dani Alves: We are the club to beat

FC Barcelona defender Dani Alves (29) spoke to the press on Thursday following the game against Real Madrid. As expected, the issue of racism in football arenas took center stage and Alves shared his opinion, terming the fight against this issue a ‘lost cause’. He also answered questions on the result and conduct of players as witnessed during the Copa del Rey quarterfinal clash.

Your thoughts on yesterday’s draw against Real Madrid?

“I think we left with a feeling of frustration because of the circumstances surrounding the game. There were clear chances we should have taken but failed to do so. A tie like this is never easily decided, we would have liked to enter the return leg with a better result. However, we wanted to score there and we have done that. Now, we have a good chance of getting the result at home.

This morning we read a tweet from the fans of the Bernabéu. Did the insults from the stadium affect you and did you think about walking off the pitch, as Milan did, for example?

“No, I did not think about leaving the pitch but it is a problem for me. I am not solely referring to them (the Bernabéu). I experience the same in all stadiums we visit. In general, I think racism is something that people are fighting to abolish in all the sporting arenas but they haven’t been successful. Incidents continue and I think it is a shame. Fans like or dislike you and in the heat of the moment they hurl insults. But I think that people who visit the teams should come to enjoy their team and cheer them on in an attempt to help them. There is much of that. But to me, sadly, the fight against racism is a lost cause and until more drastic measures are taken it will continue to exist.

“I have been in Spain for 10 years and since the first year these things have happened. I think people have to be aware of this”

You say that it is a lost cause until more drastic measures are taken, so what measures would you take? There have been instances of players leaving the pitch and referees stopping the games, what more can be done? What are the measures that will turn this into a war that can be won?

“I think you should fine the club, fine the team but not with 1 or 2 thousands euros. To these big clubs that is nothing. It should be higher, that is my opinion. You have to look at how the issue is dealt with in other places, for example, in England. It rarely happens there and when it does, the punishment is severe. But some don’t like to look at these models. This is the reason why I believe that in Spain it is a lost cause because the respect in sporting arenas doesn’t exist.”

I would like to ask you about the attitude of two players: Xabi Alonso and Árvalo Arbeloa, because not only did you have a confrontation with them, Messi and Pedro did as well. Did their behavior seem typical to you in yesterday’s game?

“I am not the one to give that statement merit, but this is not something new and has been going on for a long time. But I insist that what happens on the pitch should stay on the pitch. Whether someone’s attitude is better or worse, whatever happens there stays there. I am not the kind of person who carries these issues outside of the pitch. If any of them have an issue with me, we will try to resolve it. It doesn’t matter if it is playing dirty or anything else, it always stays on the pitch.” 

Do you feel that after a few peaceful Clásicos in the recent past yesterday’s match was rough, especially from Madrid’s end.

“I think that it has only been peaceful when they have won. Since I first became a Barcelona player, I have seen players that try to test the rules. But at this level we need someone to take a certain amount of control of these instances. There are decisions that need to be made. But ultimately, we are only trying to play football, period. We don’t want to enter into controversies or give strength to any of these claims because this is also a lost war.”

Do you believe that there are players in Madrid whose attitude crosses the line or who exhibit unsportsmanlike conduct and do you think Barcelona should have finished off the tie yesterday?

“Well, I think that when someone is aiming for a certain place or when there are bad attitudes and actions, measures are taken to hide these instances. We are accustomed to seeing this kind of behavior, we already know how it works. Particularly speaking, in my case, they either love me or hate me and I am immune to it all. When it comes to plays or contempt, I try to be immune to it and I am ready for whatever they throw at me. But I have noticed that they try to change the story when it comes to me.

“With respect to the game, I believe we had many chances and had we taken those we could have come back with a better result, a more comfortable result. But we can’t change the score and we will see what happens in the return leg.”

I would like to focus on the case of Xabi Alonso, a player who seems very protected, especially when he plays against you. You mentioned that the games between the two sides tend to be very physical, he had plenty of kicks, the constant provoking of Messi, etc. Do you think that he is protected, because the truth is that he only saw one yellow card in the 89th minute. I would also like to point out that both teams finished with 3 yellow cards apiece, despite one team committing 19 fouls and the other 5. How is this possible?

“That is what I was talking about earlier when I mentioned about having someone who can control these personalities and attitudes.  But we know how that goes and there is nothing we can do in this respect. People talk and talk and continue to talk. I still don’t understand how Cristiano Ronaldo’s tackle wasn’t a yellow. I feel that had the tables been reversed, I would have received a red card and a half. If Ronaldo received a yellow, apparently, the derby loses its purpose because Cristiano no longer faces Messi. This issue is something that many think about but few voice out. But since I don’t owe anyone anything, I say what I see.”

Do you think that it is appropriate that a big team like Madrid views the draw at home against Barcelona as a good result?

“If they play against Barça, yes. I think that at the moment we are the club to beat. The whole world wants to win against Barça. Everyone plays the game of their lives against us. If they manage to not lose against Barça, they are happy. I sincerely don’t worry about that. What I care about is continuing in this competition. Overall they should be happy, based on the chances we had in comparison to theirs, they should be happy with the draw.

I want to follow in that line, do you understand that, despite how the game was played, fans of Madrid as well as Madrid themselves celebrate a draw in their stadium while fans of Barcelona seem to be displeased at drawing in the stadium of such a big team?

“Well, I think I don’t have to analyse the reactions of Madrid or their fans. We only have to analyse ourselves. We left upset because of the way the game panned out and what I feel was a negative influence. We left upset because I feel we deserved to win based on the game we played. We should have left there with a better result.”

I am going to change the subject a bit. After 4 consecutive and similar injuries, I wanted to know if you have finally recovered your confidence, form and if you have lost your fear of being injured again. I also wanted to know if you feel valued by the fans at this club?

“There are issues in life, work and my career. All the injuries I haven’t had in my career I experienced in the beginning of this season. I never lost confidence in myself, in my work and my possibilities.

I will be honest and say I don’t really care about how the people feel about me. I do what I love and to me that is enough.  Whether they love me or not is not in my power. I assure you, I love myself very much.”

January has been the best month of your season so far. Do you believe you are in your best form or do you think there is much more to improve?

“No, since the beginning of the season, what I have looked for is to be on par with the team and I think I am there now. I think I am giving this club what I have always offered and I am happy because I think I am achieving it. The injuries didn’t allow me to do so in the beginning of the season and I hope that they are behind me. “

“This is what I was talking about. The whole word gets injured, but when it happens to Dani, they come looking to tear me down. It is something that bothers me but those who know me know what my profession means to me, what my job means to me. But these things happen, its part of the wages.”

I would like to know if the Bernabéu has been the most racist arena for you?

“No, it is not one of the most racist, there are others that are worse. Like I said before, I don’t want to point the finger at Madrid. I think that it is Spain in general and it is an issue I have encountered since my days in Sevilla. It is not only at the Bernabéu and until harsher measures are implemented it won’t change. It has been 10 years now, if it didn’t change in 10 years, it won’t change in 11.”

Image Credit: Miguel Ruiz/fcbarcelona.cat