50 Players in 50 Days: Dani Alves

Plain and simple, Dani Alves is a winner. A winner of trophies.

When Barcelona secured the La Liga title in mid-May, it marked the 31st trophy the right back has won in his 15 year career, surpassing the legendary Pele for most titles by a Brazilian, according to Spanish media outlet, AS.

13198567_10154389928654305_2318335325074674296_o

That’s quite a haul for the kid who grew up in the hardened village of Juazeiro in the northeastern state of Bahia. As a child, Dani would wake with his father at 4 a.m. to help work the farm where they harvested melons and onions in the nearby village of Salitre.

By doing so, it gave him a huge playground to work on his passion, football. His first organized steps came at age 10 with his father’s club, Palmeiras de Salitre. Right away it was clear that his future wasn’t on a community team, but rather with bigger clubs. And so he went after it with the support of his family, eventually making his professional debut with Bahía in 2001.

TICKETS: See Dani Alves and Brazil in Los Angeles, Orlando and Boston this summer

“For me, he’s an example. He didn’t look back. He said, ‘I want to change my life, I want to change my parents’ lives,” his mother told BBC prior to the 2014 World Cup. “He was born a star, he was born to shine.”

At age 19, he was already playing in Europe, having joined Spain’s Sevilla. He also had broken through Brazil’s Youth National Team program, and in 2003 helped Brazil win the FIFA World Youth Championship (now the U-20 World Cup), while winning the Bronze Ball as the third best player in the tournament.

13248528_10154396264334305_3362260248053818004_o

His ability to get into the attack from his defensive position has made him a threat with both club and country from then on, and his trophy cabinet has grown each year. After six years and five titles with Sevilla, he moved to FC Barcelona in 2008, where’s he won an astonishing 22 trophies to date (and could be 23 on Saturday if Barcelona wins Copa del Rey).

A gifted player who can shoot with both feet, and is deadly on set pieces, Alves has been a staple for Brazil since his debut in 2006, having made 90 appearances while winning two FIFA Confederations Cups and the 2007 Copa America. This summer, the 31-year-old will be playing in his fourth Copa America as Brazil takes on Ecuador, Peru and Haiti in the group stag.