There have been many great Brazilian full back pairings: Djalma Santos and Nilton Santos in the 1958 and 1962 teams, the Leandro-Junior pairing in the 1980’s and the Roberto Carlos-Cafu combination recently. There is another pairing that could one day rival these former greats: Manchester United’s Brazilian twins of Fabio and Rafael Da Silva. Described by The Times as Brazil’s answer to the Nevilles, these twins have the potential to become the best full-backs in the world in a few years.
Fabio and Rafael were signed from Fluminense in 2007, but were unable to play for a year because they were not 18 years old. But while Rafael has had his chances to impress and has broken into the first team (making 7 appearances in the Premiership this season), Fabio hasn’t received as much attention as his brother and not played in as many games. The reason is that the right-back spot for United is notably a weak area: with John O’Shea injured, Gary Neville past it and Wes Brown often deputising for the injured Vidic and Ferdinand in central defence. Whereas Fabio has an impenetrable brick wall, so to speak, in Patrice Evra, who is one of the best full-backs in the world.
So how good can the younger Da Silva be? Fabio made his debut in a friendly against Peterborough in 2008, and then his league debut against Spurs in January 2009, but got injured in that game. But it was the game against CSKA Moscow last October, where Fabio started ahead of the absent Evra, and thoroughly impressed Sir Alex Ferguson, who called Fabio “outstanding” after the game. Sir Alex said:
“The boy is a magnificent player at only 18 years of age. Absolutely first class.”
Now 19, Fabio has been described as the better of the two twins. Blessed with the same skill, toughness and lightning quickness that Rafael has, Fabio loves to get forward at every opportunity. If he can improve his defending, Fabio has the potential to be world-class in the future.
The only problem for Fabio is the form of Patrice Evra. At 28, the Frenchman is at his peak and while he carries on to perform as well as he is now, Fabio’s chances will be limited. He may have to take a leaf out of Danny Wellbeck’s book: go out on loan and get some first team experience to aid his development. If Fabio and Rafael can both improve their defensive skills, then in a few years we could see the Brazilian twins flying down the wings at Old Trafford. No disrespect to the Nevilles, but Fabio and Rafael could be even better.
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