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Looking for Barca Exit, Rafinha Could Find Home in Rome

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Headline rhyme unintentional, but could the wantaway Brazilian provide Roma a mid year boost?

Rayo Vallecano de Madrid v FC Barcelona - La Liga Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

If the transfer rumor cycle were an old wooden roller coaster, we’re about half way up the first incline. With the gentle chugging and clinking of the chain lifting you upwards, your heart stands still for a moment, not so much out of anticipation of the thrills ahead but rather out of simple fear—did they use galvanized nails? When was the last coat of waterproofing applied? Are there termites? How old is this fucking wood?

Despite those terrors, you emerge from the ride unscathed and ready for another go around. That’s the transfer rumor cycle; anticipation, fear, regret and exhilaration all rolled into one compact coaster, only this ride lasts months not minutes.

For Roma, the big thrill of this winter might be Barcelona’s wantaway 25-year-old midfielder, Rafael Alcântara do Nascimento, known simply as Rafinha. Best known for his ability on the ball and mutli-positional flexibility, Rafinha has struggled (to date) to gain a foothold during his professional career. After leaving Celta Vigo following the 2013-2014 season, Rafinha has mostly been a bit player for Barcelona, barely cracking 1,000 minutes for the Spanish superpower, though he made the most of those meager minutes two seasons ago, scoring six goals in only 1,078 La Liga minutes.

Sensing his moment in the sun would never come in the Camp Nou, Rafinha spent the second half of last season on loan with Inter Milan to mixed results. In roughly the same amount of minutes, Rafinha managed only two goals and three assists in league play. Though if we factor in the awkward midseason change of leagues, languages etc, that’s a pretty fair return. Still, Inter Milan opted not to exercise their €35 million option on the Brazilian.

So, back to Barcelona he went, and things have not gone well since then. Through the first three months of the season, Rafinha has managed only 250 minutes in all competitions, registering only one goal. To call Rafinha an afterthought would be kind; he seemingly has no place on this always illustrious squad.

A point not lost on his Dad/agent, his dadagent if you will:

It’s crazy. He can’t understand anything. Only the coach knows what he has or doesn’t have. The truth is that we’re trying to get Rafa into a situation where he plays regularly. We have to look for an exit because it’s really complicated for him here [at Barcelona]. It’s been basically two years hardly playing, and he needs a club to give him 30 or 40 games a season.

Why does it seem like football is the only sport where parents double as agents? I understand the appeal, but surely there has to be a better way, right? Regardless, Rafinha’s father is spot on here—at 25-years-old, it’s now or never for his son; if he wants to make a name for himself, he does need 30 or 40 games a year. Standing on the sidelines and hoping Ivan Rakitic or Arthur Melo makes a mistake is no way to make a career for one’s self.

And if Rafinha’s dadagent’s assertion is correct, Barcelona may be willing to part with their once bright prospect. According to an intermediary (which, wtf is that?), Roma would be open to Rafinha joining the squad in January, though if we use his Inter Milan loan terms as a guidepost, he won’t come cheaply—despite his travails, he’s still valued at some €30 million.

Now, where Roma would find those funds and where exactly Rafinha would figure into Roma’s crowded midfield remain mysteries, Rafinha is a fine player, but I’m not sure I see the practicality in this move. Certainly he’d give Roma an option behind Lorenzo Pellegrini and could be jerry-rigged as EDF’s much ballyhooed inverted right winger, but doling out that sum for someone not guaranteed starters minutes isn’t exactly a Roma sort of move. If we lived in an alternate reality, one in which Roma had €30 million to throw around at will, sure, but unless they’re going all in on Rafinha at the expense of someone like Pellegrini or Under, this move doesn’t add up.

But since when has logic and rational thought ever stopped a roller coaster?