Football News: Liverpool FC Transfer Rumours - Rafinha


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Liverpool FC Transfer Rumours - Rafinha
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The link that just won't go away!

With the long awaited transfer of Phillipe Coutinho from Liverpool to Barcelona finally looking like it will happen, reports have again emerged that there may be another player involved. That player is Rafael Alcantara, commonly known as Rafinha.

Rafinha is a product of the famous La Masia academy. He came through the system alongside his brother, Thiago Alcantara who now plays for Bayern Munich. Rafinha is 24 years old, so should be coming into his prime. However he has not made a single appearance for Barcelona this season, after having knee surgery in April 2017. He has been fit and in full first team training since early December 2017, but Barcelona seem to either be easing him back into action, or simply don't see him in their plans anymore.

As Rafinha hasn't played at all this season, he does have a slight bonus if Liverpool were to take him as part of the Coutinho transfer; he isn't cup tied. Therefore, Liverpool could sign a player with Champions league experience in January, and still be able to register him in their squad list for the knock out stages. Coutinho on the other hand, is cup tied and couldn't play for Barcelona in the competition.

Unsurprisingly, not many people seem to have seen much of Rafinha. That is no doubt primarily down to the fact he has struggled with injury recently, but also because he was more of a squad player even before his knee surgery. So don't feel ignorant if you don't know much about him as a player! A lot of people who have seen him, are very justifiably not very keen on the idea of him joining Liverpool.

Rafinha is essentially a top end squad player. His best position is undoubtedly in a traditional midfield role though, and he plays to his best when he has freedom to express himself all over the pitch. He is a very tidy passer, he can score the odd goal, and he has the energy to get around the pitch all game. However his best attribute is his composure. He is very good in tight spaces as his low centre of gravity allows him to hold off challenges, and his sublime close control helps him to wriggle out of those difficult situations. This makes him an excellent out ball when a team mate is under pressure, as he is always willing to receive the ball. His primary game in fact, is built around just that. He allows his team to either play out of defence, or even just keep possession in the final third without having to go backwards!

The problem is, Rafinha lacks consistency. The reason why is one which is very common amongst young players in the modern game. Rafinha can play multiple positions and therefore his true position is still yet to be set in stone. He has been a victim of his own versatility. His strength and work rate make him a capable wing back, but he is also deceptively good on the ball in attacking areas too. He is adept at getting past opposition players and his strength makes it difficult to shepherd him out of play. Once he beats his man, he is also very good at delivering crosses into the box. He picks out team mates, rather than just aimlessly whipping the ball in. So he is regularly used to cover attacking roles, both centrally and out wide.

Rafinha can even play as a holding midfielder, but i personally think he lacks the aerial strength to play there as he is not only relatively short, but also terrible at jumping for challenges. In the Premier league where there are players such as Christian Benteke, Andy Carroll, and Romelu Lukaku (who tend to sit on the holding midfielder to try and win knock downs in long ball teams) I'm not sure Rafinha could cope in that role week in, week out.

Rafinha is an industrious midfield playmaker who can play out wide, but he lacks the creative spark or regular goal scoring capability to replace Coutinho. Although his touch and bullish approach mean he can at least beat players, he's just not in the same calibre of player. I do fear that Liverpool are considering him as the direct replacement for Coutinho, even if only in the short term. I'm not sure that would be a wise move at all and it could derail Liverpool's season if they tried to replace a world class attacker, with no more than a good squad player. Rafinha is a tidy player, but you can't replace a magician like Coutinho with someone who is basically a bulked up Joe Allen!

Nonetheless, Jurgen Klopp is reportedly an admirer of Rafinha, and Barcelona are very keen to include him in any deal to sign Coutinho. So this signing is a very real possibility. As long as Liverpool also pursue a deal for someone like Thomas Lemar, I'm not dead set against them taking Rafinha (though there are undoubtedly better options). With Emre Can wanting out, Coutinho well on his way, James Milner and Adam Lallana being in their 30's, Jordan Henderson being injury prone, and Marko Grujic looking like leaving, Liverpool only have 3 first team midfield players who they can realistically make long term plans around; Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Georginio Wijnaldum. With anywhere up to 6 midfielders needing to be replaced in the next 2 seasons, Rafinha would be a cost effective addition to bolster the ranks and Klopp may even be able to hone his skills and make him a master of one trade, as apposed to being a jack of them all!

Written by Adam Jones

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