For most of his Bayern Munich career, Rafinha was a depth piece in defense, one that had to complement Philipp Lahm either as an adjacent partner, a flank companion, or a positional supplement. He found new life under Guardiola – much to the chagrin of several pundits – but his importance this season reached new heights with fitness issues abound. Bayern will look for another fullback this summer, but the reason will not be because of his performance.
His Season Performance
A pity, how Rafinha's revival did not win him a spot in the World Cup squad, but it might have been the best thing to happen for his Bayern season. Barring a few matches at the beginning of the Rückrunde, Rafinha was available for Guardiola the entire season. His absence left a gaping hole at the fullback position, one Sebastian Rode and Mitchell Weiser could not fill by themselves. Thus, his latent importance to Guardiola's second tenure came to light.
In terms of talent and skill set, Rafinha was the player in 2014/15 that he has been his entire career. He was still not the most disciplined tackler, and struggled with his marking a tad. What he has developed is his intuition, something that has returned with regular playing time. His positioning and recovery ability made Guardiola even more comfortable leaving Lahm in midfield, and his offensive contributions were the sole supply on the right flank. He was one of Bayern's more valuable pieces with squad depth unreliable.
Next Season's Potential
It was nice to lean on Rafinha the entire season, but he cannot be the only qualified solution for right back. He was one of several players who began to tire with the continuous demand, and odds are he cannot play a third season of over 3000 minutes and get through the whole season without injury. Bayern will either acquire another, or reposition a midfielder such as Joshua Kimmich into a fullback role. Regardless of what option they choose, Rafinha will remain Bayern's first choice right back, at least as long as Guardiola is at the club.