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Rafa Silva: Braga's creative director

Rafa Silva may be Braga's best hope of a comeback at Shakhtar Donetsk; UEFA.com takes a closer look at the attacking midfielder who the big three somehow missed.

Rafa Silva celebrates a Liga goal for Braga
Rafa Silva celebrates a Liga goal for Braga ©AFP

Born: 17/05/1993

• Rafa Silva started out at the same club as Ricardo Carvalho, Maniche, Deco and Mantorras – Alverca. Raised in Barreiro, on the south bank of the River Tagus, he spent seven years at the club before switching to Feirense.

• His coach at Feirense, Quim Machado, remains amazed that Benfica, Porto and Sporting CP never spotted Rafa's "natural talent", noting: "I'm not surprised at how well he has done, but what I do find strange is the fact that none of the big three got to him before Braga."

• Sporting may have come to regret letting him go as a child. After trials at the club's academy, the player was sent away with club officials saying there were "plenty of players like Rafa out there". He has scored twice against the Lisbon outfit in the last two seasons, and provided two assists to help eliminate Sporting from this season's Portuguese Cup.

Braga 1-2 Shakhtar Donetsk

• No one has quite worked out where to deploy the little creative midfielder. At Alverca, Luís Trincalhetas largely played him on the flanks, but reckoned he would be better as a No10. His old boss at Braga, Jesualdo Ferreira, was not so sure: "The No10 demands characteristics that Rafa does not have, while the player has skills you do not need as a No10." That being said, on one occasion when Ferreira did play Rafa as a conventional playmaker, he responded with two goals.

• He was called up for the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals despite not making a single appearance in qualifying. A great first season at Braga in 2013/14 persuaded Portugal to give him a try. "Those who do good work sometimes get rewarded," he said as he joined up with the team. "A year ago, I couldn't even have imagined being in the senior national team." Rafa was one of two Portugal players – along with Luís Neto – not to make a single appearance at the finals, but he remains in the frame for a UEFA EURO 2016 place, despite once more being absent from qualifying.

• His senior international debut, in a friendly against Cameroon in March 2014, was not exactly a triumph, since he sustained an injury in the game which sidelined him for six weeks. However, he was kept busy with Rui Jorge's Under-21 side, scoring twice in qualifying and joining them as they reached the final of the 2015 UEFA European Under-21 Championship in the Czech Republic.

• At 22, Rafa has already made more than 100 senior appearances for Braga; he was named as the club's Player of the Year for 2015 at a gala celebration in February. He has also provided four assists in this season's UEFA Europa League – second only to Sparta Praha's Bořek Dočkal.

• Much is expected of him still. Quim Machado says of Rafa: "He might not reach the level of Cristiano Ronaldo, but I think that Rafa can be a leading figure for Portugal in the future."