Just hours after Bayern Munich announced the transfer of defender Benjamin Pavard, one of the elder statesmen of Bavaria hinted at his return home.
In an interview with Bild, Rafinha hinted at his intentions to join Rio de Janeiro club Flamengo. If the deal goes through, he would join the club upon his contract expiration at the end of the season.
In the interview, Rafinha makes it clear that the deal is close to being done:
There is mutual interest. And we are close to reaching an agreement. Some details still need attention. But I hope that we can solve this as quickly as possible. I’d like to make it clear that Flamengo is my first option, if I return to Brasil.
For those not well-versed in Brazilian club football, Flamengo is one of the more successful clubs in Brazil’s Serie A, having won the league five times and finishing runners-up last season. The club is the most well-supported team in the country and has a current value of over $510 million US dollars. According to Bild, Flamengo moreover has $100 million to burn on new players.
Rafinha says the club’s success and popularity is a big draw for him:
I’ve seen the entire Flamengo project and I really like it a lot. I still want to win titles and I have seen the possibility [of doing so] with Flamengo.
Rafinha joined Bayern Munich in 2011 at the age of 26. Since then, the now 33-year-old has helped the club win six Bundesliga titles, three DFB-Pokal titles, and the 2013 UEFA Champions League, which he immortalized in a tattoo on his right calf.
Rafinha has been hinting at a return to Brazil for a while, commenting on his wishes to leave Bavaria as recently as December 2018. He has been linked with Flamengo since the early stages of the January transfer window, which would see him play in Brazil for the first time since he left second-tier side Coritiba in 2005.
This signifies the end of an era at the Allianz, as older players like Rafinha, Robben, and Ribery depart. The only remaining players from the 2013 UCL Final squad would be Javi Martinez, Thomas Muller, Manuel Neuer and Jerome Boateng (as well as Lewandowski and Hummels...).
As the club embraces younger players, the contributions of the elder statesman should not be ignored. While he may not have been a superstar for the club, Rafinha was always a consistent option in the back four when Bayern needed him most. The defender has made 172 appearances in his Bayern Munich career and is one of the older players on this squad.
The move makes sense, as moving back to Brazil will see Rafinha reunited with his daughters. So, here’s to the career of Rafinha in Bavaria! Hopefully, he will go out with a bang as the German champions enter the Rückrunde fighting with Borussia Dortmund for the league title.