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Coppa Italia hero Dani Alves rivalling Ronaldo for Europe's most decisive player

22:05 IST 17/05/2017
Dani Alves Juventus Lazio Coppa Italia
The Brazilian, who netted the opener in a 2-0 win over Lazio, has been involved in five goals in his last five games for Juventus - from wing-back


Dani Alves' agent claimed earlier this month that the 34-year-old is a better player now than he was when he joined Barcelona in 2008. It's becoming increasingly difficult to disagree: one of the most decisive players in Europe right now is a wing-back!

Juve beat Lazio to claim Coppa Italia

The best player on the pitch in both legs of Juventus' Champions League semi-final win over Monaco, Alves netted the opener in Wednesday's hard-fought 2-0 Coppa Italia final triumph over Lazio, as the Old Lady took the first step towards a treble, at a sold-out Stadio Olimpico.

The former Barcelona ace's effort was as well-taken as it was important. With the benefit of what was effectively home advantage, Lazio made a stirring start to their eagerly-awaited meeting with a Juventus side shorn of the services of their preferred midfield pairing of Miralem Pjanic and Sami Khedira through suspension and injury, respectively.

Former Bianconeri and Biancocelesti coach Dino Zoff had billed this encounter as a battle between "the solidity of Juventus and the verve of Lazio", and both were in evidence inside an exciting opening five minutes in which Keita saw a shot deflected off the hand of Andrea Barzagli and onto the base of Neto's post.

However, with just 12 minutes elapsed, Alves sneaked in behind Senad Lulic and Wallace before cleverly side-footing Alex Sandro's exquisite left-wing cross into the ground and up into the net past Thomas Strakosha.

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It meant that the Brazil international has been involved in five goals (three goals and two assists) in his last five appearances for the Bianconeri.

He would have improved that remarkable record had it not been for the profligacy of Gonzalo Higuain, who somehow failed to convert from less than six yards out, after being picked out by Alves' precise low cross from the right-hand side of the box.

It did not prove a costly miss for Juve, though, because Leonardo Bonucci made no mistake when Alex Sandro flicked a corner in his direction midway through the first half.

Nobody had been more upset than Bonucci by Juve's failure to wrap up a sixth successive Serie A title by turning in a strangely sluggish performance in last weekend's 3-1 loss to Roma at the very same stadium.

He had called for the "real Juve" to turn up - and they did.

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This was by no means a vintage performance from their attacking talent but their 'BBC' backline of Barzagli, Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini managed to contain a Lazio forward line that the latter centre-half had equated with Monaco in terms of movement and pace.

Essentially, Juve's most reliable and experienced performers stepped up to the mark and it was fitting that both goals came from defenders.

In claiming the Coppa Italia for an unprecedented third successive season, the Old Lady had needed her champions to show everyone else how it was done but Alves didn't need any guidance.

There are few more decorated players than the cheeky character who once jokingly made fun of Pele's inferior trophy haul.

"Dani's brought his winning mentality to Juventus," Alves' agent, Dinorah Santa Ana, stated earlier this month. "He’s a champion, and he’s come to win everything possible."

In this form, he might do exactly that.

The Coppa Italia is now in the bag. The Scudetto should be claimed against Crotone on Sunday. Then, it will be off to Cardiff for a date with Real Madrid, where he'll go head-to-head with Cristiano Ronaldo, who edged his side ever closer to the Liga title on the same night as Alves' heroics in Rome.

The Portuguese is 32. Dani Alves is two years old. They have never been good friends but has either man ever been in better form? Roll on June 3...