Along with his brother Fábio, Rafael has been praised for his energetic style, and has been described as an “excellent footballer” by Sir Alex Ferguson. Les Kershaw, the former Manchester United academy manager who spotted them, described the pair as being like “two little whippets”, praising how “when they got knocked down, they just got straight back up again and got on with it. They were like bouncing balls… very, very quick”. The Times has called them “Brazil’s answer to the Neville brothers (Gary and Phil Neville)”.
Things to Know:
In 2007, Rafael played for Brazil’s national under-17 team in the FIFA U-17 World Cup. He was approached by Portugal national team head coach Carlos Queiroz and asked to play for Portugal’s senior side, as both Rafael and Fábio hold Portuguese citizenship. Rafael indicated a willingness to take Queiroz up on his offer if he did not end up playing for Brazil, while Fábio remained set on playing for Brazil. On 26 July 2010, Rafael was called up to the Brazilian senior team for the first time, as he was included in new coach Mano Menezes’ first squad for their friendly against the United States on 10 August. Rafael was originally left out of the Brazil squad for their friendlies in May and June 2012, but was later called up to replace the injured Dani Alves. Porto right back Danilo was selected ahead of Rafael for the game against Denmark on 26 May, but he did eventually come on as a substitute to make his senior international debut. On 26 July 2012, Rafael scored Brazilian under-23 team’s first goal of the Olympics in a 3–2 victory over Egypt. In December 2013, The Times reported that he had considered representing England at international level, however he decided against it. He was not eligible for England as he had earlier represented Brazil in 2007 at U17 level in a FIFA recognised “official competition”, meaning that the only national teams he could choose between would be Brazil and Portugal, the nations he was eligible to represent at the time he played in the 2007 South American Under-17 Football Championship.