Dani Alves’ tribute to Carlos Alberto

While he has had an up-and-down relationship with squad numbersquite literally – there’s no denying that Dani Alves knows how to pay tribute with what he wears on his back.

Switching from 2 to 22 at Barcelona was in honour of recently retired team-mate Eric Abidal while, apparently, the 23 he has at Juventus now is reflecting the choice of LeBron James.

He continued that pattern on Thursday night as Brazil beat Argentina 3-0 in their World Cup qualifier, the first game the country had played since the death of Carlos Alberto Torres, the captain of the 1970 World Cup-winning side.

While the rest of the Brazil players wore black armbands commemorating Carlos Alberto, as captain of the side Alves wore an inverse edition:

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In addition, the right-back also switched from his usual number 2 to 4, which Carlos Alberto had worn in 1970. A look at the development of the Brazilian numbering system, written by Alexander Howells, can be read here.

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Alves swapped with Gil, who had worn 4 in the previous qualifier against Venezuela, but the centre-back was an unused substitute for both games as Brazil (and Argentina) now availing of the option to use squad numbering for qualification games.

It’s also worth noting that Argentina now have a deviation from their traditional style too, as Lucas Biglia, who would be regarded as a classic ‘5’ in his native country, prefers to wear 6, the number his position would correspond to in mainland Europe.

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Dani Alves’ rollercoaster

Barcelona announced their 2015-16 numbers yesterday, with the most notable change being that Dani Alves has taken the number 6 shirt which Xavi recently vacated.

By and large, we’re all for first-team players wearing low numbers but a right-back wearing number 6 – even allowing for Alves’ predilection towards attacking – just seems wrong. When he arrived at Barca first, he wore 20 but then took 2 when that became available in 2009 after the ill-fated Martin Caceres didn’t really work out.

Logically, he should have kept 2 for the remainder of his Barça career but when Eric Adibal retired, Alves decided to switch to 22 as a tribute to the French international. To be fair, 22 isn’t the worst choice in the world for a right-back but players moving from 1-11 numbers to higher ones is a pet hate here.

For the past couple of years, number 2 has been worn by another Martin – Montoya – but that name just doesn’t seem to gel with the Barça defence as he has gone on loan to Inter. It should have paved the way for Alves to move back down but instead new signing Douglas has taken it and maybe that’s for the best as one would imagine that he will be the medium-term right-back for the club.

The Spanish league rules that squads must be numbered from 1-25 meets our approval in general, though policing within those numbers would be even more welcome (we know it’ll never happen, alas). Barcelona’s low numbers are now arranged in the following way:

  1. Goalkeeper (Marc André Ter Stegen – GKs have to be 1, 13 or 25)
  2. Right-back (Douglas – fine)
  3. Centre-back (Gerard Piqué – he has worn it for ages but it’s still not ideal)
  4. Attacking midfielder (Ivan Rakitić – not unacceptable, but could be better)
  5. Defensive midfielder (Sergio Busquets – okay in isolated incidents, but the numbers around him make it look worse)
  6. Right-back (Dani Alves – hard to justify, if we’re honest)
  7. Winger/striker (Pedro – for how much longer? Aleix Vidal’s in January?)

We can’t really quibble with 8-11 (Iniesta, Suárez, Messi, Neymar). They’re far from the worst numbers among a major club – we’re looking at you, Bayern Munich – but we’re fighting the urge to boot up Football Manager and tidy them up.