Overlooked players number 3: Rafinha Alcantara

Today I’m going to write about one of my favourite players in world football – Rafinha Alcantara. The younger, less well known brother of Thiago Alcantara, he remained at Barcelona rather than flying the nest at a young age and though he isn’t an regular starter at Barca (who could be honestly) but is almost the definition of underappriceiated.

So what kind of player is Rafinha? He is a central midfielder. Probably. In all honesty no-one is really sure. In the last 2 seasons he has played on both wings (primarily the right), Central midfielder (both right of a three, left of a three and in a double pivot), striker and even right wing back – despite being left footed. He could almost certainly play number 10 as well, but Barca don’t use one. Where he is best in is very much up for debate – personally I think either RW or RCM show his strengths the best.

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A saviour is needed.

But what are those strengths? His versatility is exceptional and this allows him to play the 12th man role effectively – being a rotation player and backup in the event that Sergi Roberto got injured. His work rate also means if regardless of the situation he will likely have an impact off the bench However sine then he has been a more fringe player due to Lucho’s insistence on playing Andre Gomes (his signing critiqued previously here).

Above is the lineup for the second leg of the Copa Del Rey match which Barca went into 2-1 down. He got his start – alongside Iniesta and Busquets in midfield he was quietly effective. Standout? No, that was Iniesta, but did everything asked of him, worked hard, supported the attack and won the ball back with aplomb. Likewise in the 5-0 thrashing of Las Palmas he played again in midfield (this time the left) – and though Aleix Vidal and the front three of Messi, Suarez and Turan stole the show Rafinha still more than showed his worth – dropping wide to cover for Turan dropping inside into midfield, driving forwards to create overloads in the box and giving someone for Gomes and Busquets to play to as well as getting an assist for his troubles, which brings us neatly on to Rafinha’s greatest strength…

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Goal!

Goalscoring. When playing Rafinha near guarantees an impact in the final third. Going into October he was top five in the LaLiga scoring charts. Despite being a rotational midfielder he has 5 goals so far putting level with elite forwards like Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Raul Garcia and Alvaro Morata but what makes that even more impressive is the rate of scoring. Lets make a table comparing him with a few top LaLiga strikers:

Player Goals scored Minutes played Minutes per goal
Rafinha Alcantara 5 599 120
Antoine Griezmann 7 1441 205
Aritz Aduriz 6 1281 213
Neymar 4 1257 314
Gerard Moreno 7 1570 224

This is eye opening to me – Rafinha Alcantara, a midfielder scores at nearly twice the rate of a Balon D’or finalist. In fact in terms of minutes of goals he is fifth behind the big three of Messi, Suarez and Ronaldo and Wissam Ben Yedder and comfortably the highest for a midfielder.

Honestly at almost any club at Barca he would start consistently and a standout player for them – there is an arguament to be made that he has to leave Barca to gain the recognition he deserves, but as a Barca fan, I don’t want to see him go.

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