Rafael da Silva 21 Defender Manchester United
On arriving in Manchester in 2008, Rafael and his brother Fabio embarked on a quiet ascent that has seen both become integral squad members for one of the biggest clubs in the world. Rafael has effortlessly become one of the most exciting defenders playing today with a breathless energy and a whim to attack that has seen him fill in as an emergency winger when required. He is a boundless Brazilian fullback in every sense bar one – he takes his defending duties just as seriously as his attacking urges – and surely he will make his way into the national team permanently as Dani Alves’s natural (and more defensive) heir.
A Premier League winner last season, Rafael has the look of a future captain of both club and country, but only if he can temper the aggression which has seen him pick up red cards in high profile games against Tottenham Hotspur and Bayern Munich. Pleasingly for everyone at Old Trafford, the only thing to match Rafael’s potential appears to be his work-ethic and having put on the muscle to mix it with the Premier League’s flying wingers, he stands on the brink of becoming one of the first names on the team sheet at United.
“I like him a lot, energetic and skilful, yet surprisingly brave, he’s a breath of fresh air at fullback. Needs to stay fit but has a bright future – both at club level and hopefully for Brazil too” – Jack Lang (Snap, Káka and Pop!)
C+ Magnificent work so far, stay focussed and away from the referee’s notebook