Though not always first choice at FC Bayern München, Brazilian full-back Rafinha has proved an invaluable member of the record title-holders' squad.
Die Knappencome calling
Born Marcio Rafael Ferreira de Souza in the Brazilian city of Londrina in 1985, Rafinha, as he is more commonly known, signed for his hometown club, Londrina EC, at the age of 16. Less than a year later, he joined Brazilian first-division outfit Coritiba FC, for whom he made 37 appearances.
After three years at the club, the Bundesliga beckoned for the pacey full-back.
In 2005 at the age of just 19, Rafinha joined FC Schalke 04, who had just finished runners-up in the German top flight behind his future employers, FC Bayern. He made over 150 appearances for the Royal Blues but left the club for pastures new in 2010, with Italian side Genoa CFC his next port of call.
Rafinha became a regular for the Genovese club, appearing in all but four of their league matches that season. After just one campaign in Serie A, however, he returned to the Bundesliga with FC Bayern, penning a three-year contract with the club. Often playing second fiddle to club captain Philipp Lahm, Rafinha was nevertheless an important member in the FC Bayern side that clinched the German Supercup, Bundesliga, DFB Cup and UEFA Champions League quadruple in 2012/13.
Following Pep Guardiola's arrival as head coach in summer 2013, Rafinha went on to enjoy greater playing time in 2013/14, helped by Philipp Lahm's deployment in a central midfield role due to a combination of injuries in key positions. “Rafinha is a great player,” Guardiola said shortly after arriving in the Bavarian capital. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised by his performances.”
It is perhaps little surprise, then, that Rafinha is still in contention for a place in the Brazil squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. “I never give up hope,” he told Bild newspaper. “Barcelona’s Dani Alves is the first-choice right-back. He's brilliant, but it hasn’t been decided yet who will be the second right-back." If Rafinha continues to play as regularly as he has been for Bayern, he stands a better chance than most of sealing that World Cup spot.