22 Midfielder SC Braga Portugal
Left-sided midfielder Rafa Silva has been a regular player practically since the moment he stepped onto the field for the first time in a Feirense shirt in 2012. He was almost ever-present for his old club in 2012/13, earning a move to SC Braga in the summer of 2013.
Silva was named in Portugal’s squad for FIFA World Cup 2014 and has seemingly enjoyed being in the spotlight. A few more caps have followed since he made his debut for the national team in February 2014 and Silva is a young man maturing quickly into a fine football player.
2015 has been…
A very satisfactory continuation. He’s still a regular in a Braga jersey; in fact, he’s as close to a guaranteed starter as almost anyone in this year’s 100 list. Reported interest from Southampton, Sevilla and the Merseyside clubs, amongst others, has been shrugged off seemingly with the consummate ease with which Silva plays the game.
Braga’s left-most midfielder, Silva sometimes sticks to a familiar wing position but often roams around just left of centre off the ball, deep enough to show for a pass from the defence. In possession his positioning is much more fluid and this makes him a thrilling young player to watch.
When Silva gets on the ball his first thought is forwards and he drives on, making things happen. He doesn’t always aim for the line, opting instead for a more direct assault on the penalty box. He drifts into the hole when Braga are attacking in numbers from the right wing – and, sometimes, just for the hell of it.
Silva’s not exactly a ball of energy. Until, that is, he gets a sniff of the ball. That’s when he really comes to life, accelerates, and will snap into a 50/50 at the slightest invitation. When he’s in possession he’s always dynamic, always alive; more than any other Braga player he breathes life into the game when the ball’s at his feet.
He’s a scruffy, socks-rolled-down kind of a player but he’s got an undeniable touch of class about him. Silva is a sophisticated footballer, unwaveringly confident with the ball at his feet. His first-time pass-and-go is gorgeous, he’s very inventive and he’s capable of playing outrageous mid-range passes with the minimum of effort.
He’s diminutive and he moves well, finding attacking channels to run into off the ball. His vision is good, his long range passing elegant and his first touch and balance beyond question. He is, more than anything else, a natural. He scores a few goals, has deceptive strength to protect the ball and knows when to get his body in the way.
Silva is influential and inventive but not yet completely reliable. Every now and then he’ll hit a ball to nothing and give it away too easily. He can be a little lightweight when trying to dribble under pressure, doesn’t mind going down too easily in that situation and can also go for spells without getting involved enough.
There are, of course, three likely destinations for a high-profile youngster making his name away from the powerful centres of Portuguese football. A move to one of the big three before the end of his contract in 2019 seems to be approaching the point of inevitability but there’s every chance somebody even bigger comes in from abroad in the nick of time.
Domestically, Silva’s 2016 should be focused on tightening and improving his game rather than moving on. His explosive transition from languid to firecracker is a characteristic he must maintain but there are matters of consistency to attend to. A few more Portugal caps wouldn’t go amiss either. He’s certainly capable of getting them.
C+ A wonderful, scruffy delight and a tremendous footballer in the making
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