Welcome to Last Word on Football’s ‘Families in Football’ series. Over the next few weeks, we take a look at siblings, cousins and even parents and children that have played the beautiful game. Some have played cup finals together while others have been on opposing sides. Today, we focus on brothers Rafinha and Thiago Alcantara.
Families in Football: Rafinha and Thiago Alcantara
Upon moving to Spain aged 14, Thiago joined the youth academy at Barcelona. The midfielder made his competitive debut for the Catalan club in 2009 and went on to make 100 appearances for the Spanish side.
During his time at the Nou Camp, Thiago won four La Liga titles, one Copa del Rey, two Supercopa de España’s, one Champions League, one UEFA Super Cup and one FIFA Club World Cup.
Four years after making his senior debut with Barcelona, Thiago made the move to Germany and joined Bayern Munich under Pep Guardiola. The Spanish international would stay at the Allianz Arena for seven seasons and bring continued success to the Bavarian club.
Despite an injury-hit time in Germany, Thiago picked up seven consecutive Bundesliga titles, four DFB-Pokal trophies, three DFL-Supercups, one Champions League and one UEFA Super Cup. Here 235 appearances for Bayern during his stay.
In 2020, Thiago moved to Liverpool with just one year remaining on his Bayern contract. He made his Reds debut as a halt time substitute against Chelsea, where his record of 75 successful passes for the Premier League champions was the most completed by a player who played a maximum of 45 minutes in the Premier League since Opta started producing passing statistics in 2003.
Injuries have continued to hamper his progression and game time at Anfield but it was another shrewd signing for Jurgen Klopp.
At international level, the Italian-born Brazilian began playing for the Spanish youth levels. He made 42 appearances from the U16s to the U21s before making his senior debut for Spain against Italy in 2011.
At youth level, Thiago won the European U17 Championship once and the European U21 Championship twice, one of which he scored a hat-trick in the final against Italy. At senior level, the midfielder has made 46 appearances, scoring twice.
Born in Brazil, Rafinha moved to Spain as a youngster and joined Barcelona’s youth team along with his older brother.
The midfielder featured heavily for the Barcelona B team, scoring 20 goals in 84 appearances. However, having made just three senior appearances, Rafinha was loaned out to Celta Vigo, where he scored four times from 32 La Liga appearances.
Upon his return to Barcelona, Rafinha began to establish himself as a regular player. He made 36 appearances in all competitions as Barca won a La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League treble in 2015.
Injuries limited his game time over the next couple of seasons before he joined Inter Milan on a six-month loan deal with an option to buy. However, he returned to the Nou Camp but made just 11 appearances before rejoining Celta Vigo on a season-long loan.
In 2020, Rafinha left Spain and joined Ligue 1 champions, Paris Saint-Germain. In addition to the 13 trophies he won during his time at Barcelona, the midfielder has also added the Coupe de France during his time in Paris. However, the midfielder returned to Spain in December where he joined Real Sociedad on loan.
Unlike his brother, Rafinha made his international bow with Brazil. He played for the Spain U16, U17 and U19 sides before teaming up with Brazil from the U20s. He has two senior caps and scored his first goal against the USA.
With Brazil U20s, he won the Toulon Tournament before winning gold at the 2016 Olympics with the U23 squad.
Games Played Together and Against
Rafinha and Thiago Alcantara have never been on the same side and have only been on opposing teams once. That came in 2015 when Rafinha’s Barcelona won 3-0 against Thiago’s Bayern Munich in a Champions League semi-final first-leg clash. Barcelona would go on to win the final, completing a monumental treble.
Rafinha and Thiago Alcantara’s father is Mazinho, a former professional footballer who won the 1994 World Cup and 1989 Copa America with Brazil. The former midfielder turned out for several clubs, including Vasco da Gama, Palmeiras and Vitória in his homeland, with Lecce and Fiorentina in Italy, and with Valencia, Celta de Vigo and Elche in Spain.
The brothers’ mother, Valéria, was also a former volleyball player.
Despite being born in Italy to Brazilian parents, Thiago has made his international selection with Spain after moving there as a 14-year-old. Rafinha was born in Brazil before moving to Spain but decided to play international football with the former despite turning out at various youth levels for Spain.