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Getting to Know: Rafinha

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A look into the playing career of Rafinha.

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Full name: Rafael Alcântara do Nascimento
Squad No.: 12
Position: Midfielder
Date of birth: 12 February 1993
Place of birth: São Paulo, Brazil
Height: 1.74 m (5 ft 8 in)
Weight: 71 kg (172 lbs)

Rafinha was born in São Paulo into a footballing family. His father, Mazinho, was a World Cup winning midfielder with Brazil and Rafinha's older brother, Thiago, also played football. His cousin, Valencia's Rodrigo Moreno, also started playing football at an early age. The youngest of the Alcântara brothers also followed in their footsteps. Rafinha started training football regularly at the age of 13 when he joined his older brother at La Masia, FC Barcelona's famed academy.

Rafinha quickly started to impress as he rose through the youth ranks and became a player his coaches could always rely on. He made his professional debut with Barcelona B on 8 January 2011 in the Catalan derby against Girona. The youngster was still a member of the Juvenil A team at that point, but he got his first taste of professional football in the 2010-11 season. Rafinha was promoted to Barça B the following season. Under Eusebio Sacristan he quickly became a leader of the team, appearing in all but three games. That season he also earned his first team debut, on 9 November in the Copa del Rey. Rafinha would spend the entire next season with the B team, helping the team reach a top-ten finish. Over two and a half seasons Rafinha made 84 appearances for Barça B, scoring an impressive 20 goals in the process.

The following year the Brazilian was sent on loan to Celta Vigo, reuniting the midfielder with the manager that gave Rafinha his professional debut, Luis Enrique. Already having the trust of the manager, Rafinha was key for Celta's best finish in eight seasons. The Brazilian seemed to be ever present in Celta's lineup, only a nagging muscle injury keeping him off the pitch on a couple of occasions. In all Rafinha made 33 appearances in the one season he spent in Galicia where he scored four goals for Celta.

Rafinha would return to Barceloan for the 2014-15 season where he would again play under Enrique. Having support from the coach Rafinha has seen a lot of playing time, already coming very close to eclipsing numbers from his best season in the Primera División - the season with Celta. In three seasons - this season plus cameos spanning two seasons - Rafinha has appeared in 36 games for Barça, scoring two goals.

Having dual citizenship Rafinha had the option of playing internationally for two countries, Spain and Brazil. He started his international career playing for Spain at the U-16 level and continued to play for Spain for three youth teams, earning 15 caps and scoring four goals. However, in 2013 he changed his alliances and switched to his father's national team, Brazil. Since then he appeared in six games at two age levels. He is still waiting for his first goal with Brazil.

Profile

Rafinha is an attacking midfielder that has experience playing in all midfield positions and has also seen time at the position revolutionized by Lionel Messi, the Falso No. 9. Like most La Masia graduates Rafinha is also known for his passing abilities which, combined with his position high up the pitch, lead to many assists. Surprisingly, he doesn't score many goals despite his offensive prowess.

Honors

FC Barcelona

  • Copa del Rey (1): 2011-12

Brazil U-20

  • Toulon Tournament (1): 2013

Individual

  • La Liga Breakthrout Player of the Year (1): 2013-14

Rafinha is currently in the second year of the three year contract extension he signed in 2013, a deal which runs out in June 2016.