Right from the start of his interview with FIFA.com, flying Brazilian right-back Rafinha struggled to hide his delight at having signed on the dotted line for Bavarian giants Bayern Munich: “I’m so pleased to be able to come back to a country where I was really happy." Indeed, though he spent last season in Italy with Genoa, the Bundesliga is familiar territory for the 25-year-old, who had previously spent five years in the colours of Schalke.
And though well aware of the responsibility that comes with pulling on the jersey of Germany’s most successful club, the fleet-footed defender is not afraid of making ambitious predictions, even at this early stage. “In Bayern Munich I saw the opportunity to win the Champions League for the first time in my career,” said Der Rekordmeister’s new signing. “I won’t be lacking enthusiasm, motivation or hard work when it comes to winning over the fans in Munich.”
Attacking from deep
The purchase of Rafinha gives Bayern even greater attacking options from full-back positions, a real luxury for a side that already boasts Germany star Philipp Lahm. The latter, able to play on the right or left of defence, told FIFA.com recently that he was “better on the right because I cope better defensively”, though he did add that “I don't mind where I play, but it’s important to play in the same position throughout the season”.
Rafinha, a right-back by trade, has a huge amount of respect for the Germany and Bayern captain. “I’ve no doubt at all that we’re going to make a very good full-back pairing, which will give our opponents plenty of work to do. Lahm is a German footballing idol, and he’s the national-team skipper. I think we have all the ingredients to work well together. When it comes to pushing forward in attack, I feel that our tactics won’t give our opponents space to breathe. That said, we’ll still need some time to adapt.”
Should the team require, the Brazilian wide-man also has experience of playing further forward in a midfield role, having been deployed there on occasion at Genoa. “It was the coach’s (Davide Ballardini) idea, because he was impressed by how I played there in training and so put me in the same role in some games. It’s not really my best position, but if that’s what it takes to be on the pitch helping out the team, then you need to be ready to do what’s asked of you.”
Aiming for the top
Even so, things did not go according to plan during his solitary season with Il Grifone. Though harbouring ambitions of battling it out in the upper reaches of the table and pushing for a UEFA Champions League berth, a sluggish start contributed to Genoa ending the campaign in tenth spot, 15 points shy of that objective.
“It ended up taking a really long time for the team to gel,” explained the former Coritiba man. “So much so that if we’d started the Italian championship the same way we finished it we’d have been in the running for the title, or at the very least a Champions League place.”
Anything but reclaiming the Bundesliga crown is sure to be considered a failure at his new club, with Bayern’s swift signing of Rafinha, Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and striker Nils Petersen underlining their intent to improve on last season’s third place.
“With time I think Bayern will bring in even more new players, and I’m certain we’ll be in the hunt for titles.The project they’ve outlined to me for this season looks fantastic,” continued the player, who the fans in Munich will be hoping can hit the ground running and reproduce the silky flank play that wowed Bundesliga fans when at Schalke.
With Rafinha sure to be doubly motivated after the disappointment of his season in Italy, could Bayern have snagged themselves a Brazilian bargain?