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Rafinha Alcântara: Scout Report | The Brazilian La Masia graduate

Your father is a World Cup winner, your brother plays for Bayern Munich and your cousin plays for Benfica, not much pressure then on the latest of the Alcântara crop, Rafinha. Here’s a Scout Report on his brother, Thiago, from a few months back.

Who is Rafinha Alcântara?

The young maestro was born on the 12th of February 1993, in São Paulo, Brazil. Joining La Masia, FC Barcelona’s famed youth academy at the age of 13, this was the first step of many in his footballing career. Rafinha could have claimed Spanish nationality like his older brother, Thiago Alcântara, ex Barcelona prodigy. But he decided to follow in the footsteps of his father, Mazinho the 1994 World Cup winner and chose Brazil. A bold move by the youngster.

MF_RafinhaHowever, he did represent Spain in the lower echelons of the national team making 14 appearances, with three goals to his name. He switched sides when he was 19 representing Brazil at the U20’s level and in the 2013 South America Youth Championships. Both national sides are famously hard to break into and so Rafinha will really have to prove his worth to stand any chance of international stardom.

Progressing well in ‘La Cantera’ Rafinha was eventually promoted to Barcelona’s B team and made his debut on the 8th of January 2011, coming on as a substitute for Jonathan dos Santos, against Girona FC. After this throughout 2011, Rafinha impressed in training and matches for Barcelona B and was eventually called up for his first team debut which he made on the 9th November 2011 against CE L’Hospitalet.

To further his development though, Barcelona have loaned Rafinha out to Celta Vigo for the 2013/14 campaign, this gets him regular first team football and introduces him into the top flight of Spanish football, La Liga. The Brazilian announced his move on twitter before it was even made official by the clubs with the message, ‘Mum and Celta fans, I’m returning home’.

Note that Rafinha Alcântara also featured in our list of 100 Best Young Players to Watch-Out for in 2014. He was at #8 in our list of midfielders. See the full list here.

Styles, Strengths and Weaknesses

Rafinha has many reputable strengths, most notably his dribbling and his passing. The La Masia graduate this season has so far created 32 goal scoring chances (28 Key passes, 4 assists) in just 21 games, with a pass accuracy of 83%. Iniesta by comparison who is widely touted as the best playmaker in the world has only created 23 chances but with a pass accuracy of 91%, could Rafinha take over Iniesta’s role in a few years? Comment below with your opinion.

What many young player makers do not get credit for though is their work rate defensively, Rafinha however does. Out of the 60 tackles he has attempted he has successfully made 40 (67%). This is a very high figure, comparing this to Hugo Mallo a regular starting centre back for Celta Vigo who only has a tackle success rate of 66% himself. This shows how good Rafinha is at tackling and also compliments his high work rate, which is further backed up by the 23 interceptions and the 19 clearances he has made thus far.

Rafinha's average pass length via squawka.com

Rafinha’s average pass length via squawka.com

Along with this the Brazilian has a keen eye for goal, 11 shots in 21 games, with eight of these on target and three hitting the back of the net. This may seem low but you have to consider the role that he plays with Celta which is either a deep central midfielder or out wide. Even with all the statistics in the world though you can’t measure a player’s effectiveness on the game, this is something you have to watch to measure. In this video he shows his skills for the Brazil U20 national team, using his attributes to play as a deep lying playmaker. This is someone who takes the ball from the defence and plays it to the attacking midfielders and forwards, linking all the play together, many argue this is the heart of a team as everything starts through them, in this case Rafinha. You need to be comfortable on the ball to play in this position, have good awareness and boast a strong passing range something Rafinha possesses, as the above graph shows.

His weaknesses though are that his disciplinary record is quite high, six yellow cards in 21 games is a lot and this can put the player and the team in a tricky situation. For example if a player gets a yellow card early on in the game it means that he will have to be careful for the rest of the game, this means he has to take less risks ultimately tackling less. He also cannot afford to get a red card as then the team has to play with 10 players, therefor Rafinha needs to add maturity to his game.

This is especially important for when he re-joins Blaugrana, the players there have to be very disciplined as to where they concede their fouls. This is due to the height of the team and how well they deal with set-pieces which so far this season isn’t good. Out of the 16 goals they have conceded in La Liga this season 6 (38%) have been headed goals. Rafinha therefore needs to think about the team more when he goes back to Barça, I believe he will though, that is why he’s on loan in the first place, to mature as a player and take on more responsibility within the team.

One things certain though, Rafinha isn’t at one of the most prestigious clubs in the world for no reason, the people that saw special something in Messi, Iniesta and Xavi see something in Rafinha too, that’s the highest compliment you can pay him.

Expert Talk

“While its clear what we have here is an exceptional footballer, it is wrong to describe Rafinha in the traditional sense of a La Masia born midfielder. This is a player with undoubted ability on the ball, with an engine that never seems to stop, versatility that would make the finest of footballers envious, with a keen sense of finding a pass and showing up at the right areas at the right time. But what he’s not, and this might sound ironic for a player coming from La Masia, is a possession based midfielder. This is a player with a massive future at Barcelona, but not as a replacement for Xavi, Iniesta or Cesc. Instead he will introduce the Camp Nou to a completely new style of midfielders, one they have not seen the likes of before, and they’re going to love this special kind of midfielder. ( Sachin Chandra, @YoungCules )

This piece was a guest article by Matthew Buck. Follow him on twitter @footballTIKA.

For more detailed Scout Reports, head this way. View his SoccerWiki profile here.

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