His Instagram defiantly states “Você sabe meu nome, mas não sabe minha história.” It sounds far nicer in Portuguese but translated it means “You know my name, but you do not know my history.” That may be true of this player but certainly know his present and we can try to shine a light on the future of this particular footballer.
It was while this author was watching Sporting CP teammate, Bruno Fernandes, that he first saw a slight, diminutive but incredibly quick and skillful winger terrorising his opponents from the right-hand side.
With pace to burn, acceleration and a real dose of “X factor”, Raphinha is well and truly a name to keep an eye on in the 2019/20 season. After beginning his career at Brazilian club Avaí, he spent a year with Vitória Guimarães’ B team in the Portuguese second division before linking up with the first team in 2016/17. It was the next season though that he really burst on to the scene – 32 league appearances for the side from northern Portugal brought 15 goals and 4 assists.
Sporting shelled out €6.5 million in the summer of 2018 to bring the Brazillian (who also happens to hold an Italian passport) to Lisbon. He went on to start 16 of Sporting’s 34 league games, coming off the bench in 8 more to post a total of 7 goals and 5 assists in his first season for the Leões. It’s fair to say that fans of his former club would have felt a pressing sense of saudade when he scored this wonderful goal in late April.
In addition to the aforementioned pace and trickery, he possesses a great first touch, an eye for a cross, the ability to beat defenders 1v1 and good close control under pressure from defenders. It’s also important to note that he is not a passive player, he aggressively looks to move the ball forward and it is this “directness” that contributes to his ability to change a game at the drop of a hat.
This season just gone, he averaged 5.38 successful dribbles per game in the league along with 0.32 goals, 2.28 shots on target, 3.19 crosses and an impressive 3.93 interceptions.
As a comparison, ex-Benfica prodigy João Félix who was recently acquired by Atlético Madrid for a cool €126 million averaged 3.18 successful dribbles per game along with 0.74 goals, 3.18 shots on target, 2.43 crosses and 1.14 interceptions. Yes, João Félix is a different player. He is younger, scored more goals and the fee paid for him certainly takes into account his future development. Raphinha also came on as a substitute more often than Joao Felix – maximising the impact of his pace against presumably tired legs.
On the contrary, João Félix played for a superior team and in a more central role as well. The discrepancy in terms of numbers isn’t huge and Raphinha has shown he can be a valuable and consistent contributor – we only need to revisit his time at Vitória Guimarães to see that. If he is able to cement a consistent starting spot at Sporting, expect Raphinha to be talked about far more than he currently is.
Raphinha. Remember the name.
All statistics courtesy of wyscout