BARCELONA (Reuters) - Dani Alves was a serial winner with Barcelona, yet the exuberant Brazilian never felt loved by the Catalan club and on Tuesday will have a chance to show them what they are missing when Juventus host his former side.
The Champions League quarter-final first leg at the Juventus Stadium will be the first time Alves has faced Barca since he left for Turin last summer.
Alves had been one of the architects of Barcelona’s dominance in Spanish and European soccer in past years. He won 23 titles over eight season at the Nou Camp -- including three Champions League trophies and six La Liga titles.
The right back provided 42 assists for Lionel Messi, more than any other player, and notched a total 100 assists in the league.
Before the club’s 2015 Champions League final triumph over Juventus, Messi hailed Alves as the best right back in the world, also saying: “It’s very difficult to find a player like him today.”
A year later, though, he left the Nou Camp on a free transfer, announcing his departure after the 2015-16 season had ended.
Despite his brilliant understanding with his teammates on the pitch, Alves’ flamboyant manner was often viewed as a lack of professionalism by the club’s hierarchy.
His sometimes eye-catching social media posts also frequently irked fans. On one occasion last year, he drew criticism from supporters when he posted a video of himself dressed up as a woman and saying Barcelona’s elimination from the Champions League was “just a game of football”.
In an interview earlier this year with newspaper ABC de Sevilla, Alves was scathing of the Barcelona’s board.
“The people who run Barcelona have no idea how to treat their players,” he said.
“They were very false and ungrateful. They did not respect me. They only offered me a renewal because of the FIFA transfer ban. That’s when I played their game and signed a renewal, which included a clause that allowed me to leave for free a year later.”
“I like feeling loved and as they did not want me I left.”
Alves’ departure left a gaping hole in the Barcelona team, however. The club opted against signing a replacement, leaving Aleix Vidal and Sergi Roberto to take his place.
Vidal spent much of the season sidelined from the squad by coach Luis Enrique. Shortly after winning his place back in the team in February, the Spaniard sustained a season-ending ankle injury.
Meanwhile, Roberto, originally a holding midfielder, has had an inconsistent season, earning rave reviews in some games but reinforcing the views of his doubters when up against tougher opposition.
Roberto suffered a torrid time in the defeats to Manchester City and Paris St Germain in the Champions League, though he wrote himself into Barcelona folklore by scoring the goal that completed the historic 6-1 win over the French side in the last 16 second leg.
Barcelona appeared to miss the energy and vision of Alves as they floundered to a 2-0 defeat at Malaga on Saturday, a loss which further dented their chances of catching La Liga leaders Real Madrid.
Should the Brazilian engineer Barcelona’s elimination from this season’s Champions League, they may wish they had shown him a little more of the appreciation he so craved.
Reporting by Richard Martin; editing by Richard Lough