Mönchengladbach - He is one of the form players in the Bundesliga and could yet play a crucial role in Borussia Mönchengladbach sealing direct qualification to the UEFA Champions League.
Raffael Caetano De Araujo, more commonly known as Raffael, is a familiar face in Germany's top flight having played for Hertha Berlin and FC Schalke 04, but he is writing a more lasting chapter at Gladbach, thriving once more under the stewardship of Swiss tactician and a long-time admirer of his, Lucien Favre.
bundesliga.com spoke exclusively with the unassuming Brazilian to discover how and why the Foals are playing so well this season and just what kind of impact Favre has had on his career.
bundesliga.com: Raffael, Borussia Mönchengladbach are currently in a Champions League position and delivering consistently good performances. What makes your team so good at the moment?
Raffael: I think we have good players in the team. As you say, we’re playing well at the moment and we’re getting good results, which helps. Everyone is making sure we continue fighting to stay where we are and reach our target of finishing in the Champions League places.
bundesliga.com: How much would it annoy you and the team if you don’t reach that target?
Raffael: Anything can happen in football. We’re fighting extremely hard for it, but if it doesn’t happen, sometimes that’s life and you just have to keep looking forward.
bundesliga.com: You yourself are in great form, scoring and making goals regularly at the moment. Why do you think you’re playing so well?
Raffael: I just try to give my best in every game for the team. In every training session I try to work hard so I can perform for the team out on the pitch.
bundesliga.com: A Brazilian newspaper recently wrote that your performance and two goals in the 2-0 win away at FC Bayern München was revenge for Germany’s 7-1 win against Brazil at the World Cup. Was that the case?
Raffael: (laughs) No, that had nothing to do with it and I never thought about that. It was just Gladbach against Bayern, that was it.
bundesliga.com: You’re scoring and creating goals but you also shape the way the team plays. Over time have you come to feel that you've taken on more responsibility playing in this side?
Raffael: I’d like to think so, yes. I think my performances in helping the team, not just scoring goals but also assisting them - which is very important for the team - gives me responsibility.
bundesliga.com: What type of player would you personally label yourself as?
Raffael: I like thinking when I’m on the pitch. I’m always thinking about how I can help the team and I just try to execute what's in my head, when it’s possible. Sometimes it works, sometimes not (laughs).
bundesliga.com: Gladbach’s style of play is very quick and centred around counter-attacking at pace. Is this a type of football that you enjoy playing?
Raffael: Well, every game is different really. Before a game you always try to study the opposition as best you can to find out their weakness and exploit them. That’s always your goal in a game: to find out those weaknesses and dominate the game.
bundesliga.com: Gladbach are well placed to reach the Champions League, although it’s not yet guaranteed. How much is playing in the competition an extra motivation for you and how important would it be to you to play at that level?
Raffael: It’s my main goal because every footballer in the world dreams of playing in the Champions League against the best players in the world and I really hope we can do it.
bundesliga.com: Lucien Favre has been an important figure in your career, having coached you in Switzerland with FC Zürich and then signed you for Hertha Berlin and now Gladbach. As a coach and as a person, how important is he for you as a player?
Raffael: I don’t really need to talk about the coach because he has been and still is the most important person in my career in football - I can certainly say that. Having the opportunity of working with him here and now is enough for me to be happy. I like working for him as a coach but I also like him as a person as well and playing for him makes me happy.
bundesliga.com: You’ve recently been mentioned as a player in with a shout of a call-up to the Brazil squad. Does that come into your thinking?
Raffael: Playing for the Selecao has always been a dream of mine ever since I was a little kid. At the moment it’s not become a reality yet, but there’s always a chance.
bundesliga.com: Matches in the Bundesliga are broadcast all over the world including Brazil. How do you rate the league and what reputation does it have in your homeland?
Raffael: For me it’s certainly one of the top leagues in Europe and the world. The whole world watches it and knows about it. In Brazil, everyone watches the Bundesliga and that wasn’t the case a few years ago.
bundesliga.com: What does the rest of your career hold for you? Do you ever think about what you might do or where you might play two, three or four years down the line?
Raffael: I’m not really someone who enjoys thinking about what I’ll do in the future - I like to live in the moment. Right now I have another two years to run on my contract that I want to see out, and after we’ll have to see what happens.