Cologne - Of all the players to have benefited from Pep Guardiola’s appointment as FC Bayern München head coach two years ago, Rafinha’s name stands out more than most.
The two-time Brazil international was on the fringes of the squad when the Catalan strategist took over from Jupp Heynckes in June 2013, but nowadays is something of a regular in a side overflowing with world-class talent.
'I'll do everything I can'
“Our squad is made up exclusively of top players who all want to play, myself included,” Rafinha told club website fcbayern.de. “But when you’re at Bayern, you know you won’t play every game. What matters is to train well and be ready when the coach needs you. There’s still plenty of time before the Bundesliga restart. I hope I’ll have another good season and I’ll do everything I can to achieve that.”
Making the most of captain Philipp Lahm’s recasting as a defensive midfielder, Rafinha has proved himself to be much more than a reliable deputy. He was restricted to just 52 appearances in his first two seasons at the club after leaving Genoa CFC in summer 2011, but has featured 87 times in all competitions under Guardiola, ticking all the boxes in a system that demands tactical versatility, solid ball retention skills and an impeccable first touch.
'Bundesliga opponents are better'
For new signing Douglas Costa, there could scarcely be a better role model. At present, no one expects the 24-year-old to usurp a fully fit Arjen Robben on the right-hand side of midfield, but when his chance comes, he can almost certainly count on the support of Bayern’s first-choice right-back.
“Douglas Costa is a quality player, but with all due respect to the Ukrainian league and Shakhtar, FC Bayern is a different world, and Bundesliga opponents are better, more dynamic, more physical and quicker,” Rafinha warned. “We’ll certainly have to give him time to settle in.”
Rafinha is, after all, the very definition of a team player. He has his colleagues’ backs on the pitch and has forged some lasting bonds off it. He recently tweeted a photo together with good friend Thiago Alcantara and, not for the first time, posted a tuneful video of one of his jamming sessions with fellow Brazilian defender, Dante. Given his convivial nature, it won't be long before Bayern's genial No.13 inducts Costa into the band.