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by Gerard Reyes
There is, rather unfairly, a feeling within football circles that once a player passes their 30th birthday their career is only going to head in one direction.
Certain goalkeepers are the obvious exceptions to the rule, with many of those competing at the highest level until well into their 30s, but many outfield performers are considered to be spent forces at a point in their lives where most professions would look upon their experience as invaluable and a commodity to be embraced.
However, modern day sportsmen and women are among the most highly-tuned performers on the planet and a willingness to embrace healthy eating habits and to work hard in training is delivering greater rewards.
No longer should a 30th birthday be looked upon as a downturn in the career cycle, with there every reason to believe that those at the very top of the game have many fine years ahead of them.
That is an approach recently adopted by Barcelona during lengthy contract extension negotiations with Dani Alves.
Admittedly there was never any talk, in public at least, of age or of the Brazilian suddenly becoming a piece of the puzzle no longer required.
Discussions dragged on, though, for longer than any of those concerned would have liked, with there a very real threat at one stage that he could depart Camp Nou this summer at the end of his previous deal.
There were no shortage of suitors willing to snap him up, with Manchester United and Paris St Germain among those to be heavily linked with a free agent approach, but they have ultimately been left to turn their attention elsewhere.
On the back of a Treble-winning campaign, which reached its climax in the Champions League final, Alves has committed to another two years in Catalunya.
Images of the smiling 32-year-old putting pen to paper suggest all is well in the Barca camp and that murmurings of discontent have been quickly forgotten.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) June 9, 2015
It is easy to see why both parties should be pretty happy with their lot, with Alves avoiding the need to pack his bags for pastures new – which would have resulted in another settling in period – while the reigning Spanish champions and general 8/11 shots within La Liga betting markets to defend that crown next term still have one of the finest attacking full-backs of his generation still on their books.
There appears to be no reason why the Brazil international cannot remain in that elite bracket through to 2017, with his numbers in 2014/15 actually showing an improvement on the recent past.
Last season saw Alves take in more minutes, both domestically and in Europe, than he has since 2011/12, suggesting that there is still plenty of fuel left in the tank, while his return of 29 starts in the league has only been bettered once in the last five years.
He also provided more assists, six compared to three, than he did last season, put in more tackles per performance, 4.1 compared to three, more crosses and enjoyed a higher pass completion rate, 88.5% compared to 87.3.
Alves’ career curve, it would appear, is on the rise, rather than the decline, and Barca can consider his contract renewal to be one of the shrewdest pieces of business they will carry out this year – even if he is the wrong side of 30.
Bayern Munich and ex Barcelona’s midfielder Thiago Alcantara didn’t only miss the DFB-Pokal final but also the FIFA World Cup™ for Spain with a knee injury. The German Bundesliga champions confirmed on Thursday that the defensive midfielder will be undergoing surgery on a knee injury he picked up in training. How far will they go this time, what are the odds on Spain to win Group B, it’s yet to see.
“It’s very bitter for Thiago and we’re really sorry for the lad,” said Bayern’s chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge on his club’s website.
“He’s a young lad who’s worked hard on his comeback and to be fit for the World Cup in the country where he was born, and suddenly both dreams are over. We’ll take care of him in the coming weeks and do all we can to make sure he’s fit for the start of the next season.”
Thiago, who joined Bayern from Barcelona last summer, missed the start of the season due to injury and had various ailments during his first season in German football.
He had been named by Vicente Del Bosque in his 23-man squad for the World Cup, but has now been forced to withdraw.
Barcelona have sounded a warning to their La Liga rivals by suggesting that the 7-0 drubbing of Levante on the opening weekend of the new season was just a taster of what they can expect to be competing against this year.
New coach, Gerardo Martino, has overseen some fairly serious action in the transfer market during his short time at the helm, the most eye-catching being the capture of mercurial Brazilian, Neymar, for the princely sum of £48.7m.
Much will be expected of him over the coming months but only time will tell if he can replicate his fabulous form at Santos on the biggest stage of them all.
Having finished a massive 15 points ahead of runners-up and main rivals, Real Madrid, last season, Barcelona opened the defence of their title with a typically devastating display, and Neymar completed the celebrations by making his debut as a substitute, a move that indicates that he has now fully recovered from the knock he picked up in pre-season.
The Catalan giants were praised after the match for their pressing and high-tempo play, both with and without the ball – but, whilst this provides rich pickings for attacking players, the argument will inevitably be raised over whether this approach will again leave them vulnerable in defence.
Sterner challenges lie in wait – the firepower of Real, Atletico, and Valencia will provide a far tougher test than that posed by Levante – which means that, somewhat conversely, their title hopes may eventually depend on Victor Valdes.
In his swansong season at the Nou Camp and, likely, at the World Cup, in which Spain are the reigning champs, Valdes will be desperate to repeat last year’s campaign when he conceded an average of just 1.06 goals per game.
That between AC Milan and Ibrahimovic is a negotiation far from impossible. As the days passed, the possibility that the former Juventus and Inter Milan player to wear the Milan shirt is growing, becoming – as now – a lot realistica.L hypothesis’ arrival at Villa Barcelona to close the openings to Swedish a mesh holder and, while the possible sale of Newcastle United, AC Milan to ensure an economic foundation which could allow Galliani and Braida say a few words with the club Barca. If the newly Rossell, eager to make money by giving a player probably unhelpful to the cause Catalan, decides to accept a payment spread over 3 years, AC Milan could suddenly find themselves holding one of the strikers who, until last year, contending scepter of “World’s Number 1″.
According to reports today from ‘Tuttosport’, however, the Blaugrana could ask the Rossoneri in the business to include Alexandre Pato, where Rossell wants a priority since the 2011-2012 season. If Milan were to then decide to sell the ‘Duck,’ the Blaugrana could decide to take the ‘Camp Nou’ to delight the public Catalan alongside Messi, Pedro Villa.