Barcelona’s free-flowing attacking midfielder, Rafinha, has got a hugely important decision to make in summer with regards to his future.
Having struggled to really cement a permanent role for himself within Barca’s star-studded squad, with injuries playing a key part in this too, the 24-year-old is reportedly worried about his place in the Brazilian squad ahead of next year’s World Cup in Russia and open to a move away from the Camp Nou.
During his injury affected 2016/2017 campaign, Rafinha still managed to muster 18 La Liga appearances, 14 of which were starts, and bag a solid six goals and two assists. Rarely trusted or deployed in the big matches, except if one of Barca’s regular starters was unavailable, which is well demonstrated by the fact the majority of his goals came against the likes of Leganes, Sporting Gijon, Deportivo La Coruna and Granada, he still was a very useful squad player.
It must be noted, however, that he played an important role in the Catalan side’s barely believable 6-1 win over PSG in the Champions League and scored vs Atletico Madrid, showing he can match it with the big boys too when afforded an opportunity.
According to Mundo Deportivo, crucial talks with the newly installed Barca manager, Ernesto Valverde, are slated for the coming days, which should prove vital in determining his future.
In the meantime, though, speculation is rife about his departure, as the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal, AS Roma and Juventus are all apparently keen on acquiring the technically gifted left footer. In the case of the Reds and the Gunners, swap deals are even being mentioned, with Barca very eager to bring Liverpool’s Phillippe Coutinho and Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin.
Having slapped a hefty €30 million price tag on their asset, who’s versatility, which sees him capable of playing in both the midfield and attacking lines, will surely add to his value, for it gives coaches great tactical flexibility as to how best deploy him.
While it’ll be difficult to draw the La Masia graduate away from the club he joined all the way back in 2006, any team that can grant him the guaranteed playing time he dearly craves will be difficult for him to turn down.
His father and 1994 World Cup winner, however, has slammed all the rumors linking him with a move away from the historic club, insisting his son will be going nowhere. “This is absurd, I don’t know who started this,” Mazinho recently explained to Sports TV.
“Rafinha has no interest in leaving Barcelona. We have a contract until 2020 and he will finish it normally.”
Interesting, Rafinha’s comments at the beginning of last campaign, that were made after he returned to Spain following winning Olympic gold in his homeland, gave an insight into his desire for consistent minutes. “I want to continue at Barcelona but if I’m not given many minutes I’ll consider leaving because what I want is to play. But we will see,” he stated on Spanish Radio last year.
“It is difficult to play regularly in a club like Barcelona because here we have the best players in the word. The best thing for a footballer, the normal thing, is to want to be on the pitch. If that’s not here, there’s nothing wrong in going out on loan. But I’ll do everything I can to play for Barcelona.”
Although he faces a tough choice to make on whether to stay or go, one thing’s for sure is that he’s a fantastic little footballer. Possessing a low center of gravity and immense upper body strength, the diminutive, well-balanced playmaker is extremely agile and difficult to outmuscle when dribbling. Indeed, combine this with his Velcro-like touch and he’s a very dangerous player indeed whenever he gets on the ball.
In terms of his passing, he’s equally effective. Whether playing more expansive aerial balls and piercing through passes or more intricate one-touch layoffs and ingenuitive flick-ons, his armory is well equipped to pull off whatever pass is required for the situation he’s confronted with.
His propensity to recognize and find vacant space within opponents’ defensive structures is another enormous weapon of his, which is definitely an area of his game that’s been so diligently cultivated during his 11 years at Barca.
Full of pace and rapid acceleration to boot, it’s not hard to see why Rafinha’s such hot property. The only downside to him is his unfortunate track record with injuries. But all things considered, he’d be a brilliant purchase for any of the aforementioned sides or a very useful member of Valverde’s squad if he stays.
Only time will tell what his future holds. Let’s just hope that whatever decision he makes it allows him to fulfill his dream of going to the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
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