Evergreen Dani Alves staking a claim to Ibrahimovic's 'Benjamin Button' crown

Dani Alves Juventus 2017
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The Brazilian has been showing Barcelona just what they are missing this season after becoming the latest beneficiary of Turin's Fountain of Youth


They say that football is a young man’s game.

To many, The next generation is always the most exciting.

When adopting this mindset, Kylian Mbappe can be portrayed as the next Pele, Marcus Rashford as some sort of Usain Bolt/Eusebio hybrid and Renato Sanches as the best thing since someone ran a knife through a crusty loaf.

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Even John Stones can earn the nickname ‘the Barnsley Beckenbauer’ without an eyelid being batted.

Sometimes, though, it is best to ignore the hype.

In this instance, that approach is backed up by an elite group of 30-somethings who continue to show that age is just a number and that experience trumps exuberance in just about any situation you want to apply that philosophy to.

Dani Alves Juventus 16 17

Cristiano Ronaldo is still being Cristiano Ronaldo at 32, Zlatan Ibrahimovoic has rolled back the years at Manchester United to make 35 the new 25, while Edinson Cavani, Luis Suarez and Edin Dzeko have shown themselves to be among the most prolific frontmen in Europe this season.

We are also only a matter of weeks away now from the supernatural talent of one Lionel Messi reaching the end of a third decade on this planet.

Away from this collection of individuals, though, there is a club which has come to embody the notion that while it is possible to win something with kids, some tasks are better suited to real men.

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Paulo Dybala, at the age of 23, may be the future at Juventus, but the present being built around him is dominated by a group of seasoned professionals who continue to defy biology, physics, history, art and probably maths, geography and religious education as well.

Gianluigi Buffon (39), Andrea Barzagli (36), Stephan Lichtsteiner (33), Giorgio Chiellini (32), Claudio Marchisio (31), Leonardo Bonucci (30), Sami Khedira (30) and Mario Mandzukic (30) – the Old Lady of Turin is happy to embrace a few grey hairs, the odd wrinkle and those of a longer tooth.

Maybe there is something in the water around this northern Italian outpost, with the Fountain of Youth seemingly springing eternal within Max Allegri’s squad.

Season Played (Total) Mins played Goals Assists Chances created (90 mins) Passes successful Recoveries Crosses Dribbles Touches Duels won Tackle success
2008-09 34 2926 5 9 1.78 46.2 7.66 1.94 1.17 98 7.32 2.17
2009-10 29 2505 3 10 1.94 57.38 6.43 1.65 0.93 107.28 7.11 2.95
2010-11 35 2901 2 15 2.11 68.07 6.58 1.12 1.58 112.12 7.01 2.25
2011-12 33 2673 2 11 1.82 67.07 6.23 1.21 1.25 109.56 7.27 2.74
2012-13 30 2266 0 6 1.75 65.89 6.12 1.75 0.6 108.55 6.51 3.15
2013-14 27 2385 2 3 1.43 61.92 5.92 1.17 1.25 104.38 7.17 2.95
2014-15 30 2524 0 6 1.43 61.3 5.92 1.25 0.82 100.09 7.35 2.73
2015-16 29 2148 0 4 0.88 61.13 6.16 1.01 1.01 97.37 4.78 2.87

Juve have even gone as far as snapping up talent that would have been overlooked by the aforementioned brigade who place as much emphasis on birth certificates as they do sporting CVs.

In the summer of 2016, Dani Alves packed his bags at Barcelona and prepared to head to Serie A as a 33-year-old considered a disposable asset by those in the corridors of power at Camp Nou.

Some 10 months on, and with the Brazilian having celebrated his 34th birthday on Saturday, that decision is being made to look increasingly rash.

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Ibrahimovic has been happy to cast himself as football’s equivalent of ‘Benjamin Button’ this term, but he has some serious competition in those stakes from Alves, with the Samba star posting on social media as another candle was added to his cake: “Don’t let your spirit grow old and you will be like Benjamin Button!!! #foreveryounggoodcrazy.”

It is that positive thinking which has allowed the buccaneering full-back to remain on top of his game in 2016-17 and offer a timely reminder to those back in Catalunya of what they allowed to slip through the net – even with a broken leg thrown into the mix for good measure.

That injury, suffered in November, means Alves will take in fewer outings this season than he has done since first bursting onto the scene at Sevilla in 2002-03.

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He has, however, been able to take his game to new heights in many ways, with the number of miles on his particular clock allowing him to carefully manage both his body and playing style in order to bring the best out of both.

No player has created more chances in the Champions League this term than the 30 carved open by Alves, while only the more forward-thinking talents of Ronaldo (five), Ousmane Dembele (six) and Neymar (eight) have bettered his assist haul of four – and he still has one game left to take in.

He laid on both of Gonzalo Higuain’s efforts in a 2-0 victory over Monaco in the first leg of Juve’s semi-final clash, created one and scored a sumptuous volley in the return date and is currently boasting better per-90 minute figures for Juve in terms of chances created, crosses and tackle success than he ever managed at Barca – with his passing success rate, recovery figures, dribbling ability and number of touches are also up there alongside those posted while at the peak of his powers in Catalunya.

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Alves remains a phenomenon, a wing-back of the very highest order and a man who could yet go on to snatch Ibrahimovic’s ‘Benjamin Button’ crown by outlasting the Swedish striker at the highest level.

He may no longer be in vogue to those more focused on tomorrow than today, but any doubters need look no further than one of the many tattoos to adorn his body for advice on what to do with their opinions when it comes to old versus young.

As the inking on his right index finger succinctly puts it: 'Shhh!'