Rafniha Alcantara, younger brother of Bayern star Thiago Alcantara, has made excellent progress during his loan period at Celta Vigo and now, parent club FC Barcelona are set to announce his signing on permanent basis; along with the appointment of his boss Luis Enrique.
Spanish daily Marca has reported today that Luis Enrique’s imminent move to Barcelona has reduced the Galician club’s hopes of holding onto the loan star as their outgoing boss is ready to take his favorite student along with him.
Born in São Paulo, Brazil, Rafinha joined FC Barcelona’s youth ranks at the age of 13. Rafinha made his debut for Barca’s B team in 2011, coming on as a substitute for Jonathan dos Santos in a 1–2 home loss against Girona FC. In the same year, Rafinha made his debut with FC Barcelona’s senior squad, coming as substitute of Cesc Fàbregas for the last 15 minutes of a 1–0 away win against CE L’Hospitalet for the season’s Copa del Rey. He finished the league campaign with 39 games and eight goals for the reserves.
Rafinha belongs to a family where all male members are professional footballers. His father Mazinho, was a midfielder, notably winning the 1994 FIFA World Cup with Brazil. His older brother, Thiago – another midfielder – also emerged through Barcelona’s youth ranks, now plays with German champions Beyrn Munich. And although he is born in Brazil, Rafinha is a Spanish national and has opted to play for his adopted country only.
When Enrique became the coach of Celta Vigo last season, he immediately signed then Barca player Rafinha on loan and the player went on to make big impact in the Galician clubs’ campaign this year. Now as Enrique himself is set to move to his former club, he wants to take his trusted lieutenant along with him too.
The key reason of Barcelona’s desire to capture the services of Rafinha is their growing dependence on Xavi and Iniesta. Off late, Xavi, 34, has been unable to dictate the tempo of the games like he used to. Injuries have also taken a toll over the consistency of the maestro and current boss Tata Martino also has used him sparingly this season. Iniesta meanwhile, will turn 31 next week and Barca want to have his successor ready.
Marca reports that even if Barcelona management decides to keep him on loan for next season also, that club won’t be Celta Vigo. Barca preferably wants him to a club which will be playing in Europe next season.
Barca youth team coaches are of the opinion that Rafinha is more talented than his older brother Thiago and quite understandably, management of the Blaugrana want to have him in their senior squad as the able successor of Xavi and Iniesta.