Rafa Silva is once again being linked with a move to the Premier League. The Benfica attacker, then at Braga, was linked with a move to Liverpool at the end of Jürgen Klopp‘s debut season at Anfield but eventually ended up at the Estádio da Luz.
Silva had dazzled while plying his trade for Braga, dancing past opponents on a regular basis, but since the move to the Portuguese champions he’s faded and with it his stock has fallen.
However, despite this drop off in form, reports in January claimed Leicester City, Everton and Wolverhampton Wanderers wanted to bring the 24-year-old to England. A loan move was mooted but a deal wasn’t finalised.
Now, speaking to A Renascenca in Portugal, Antonio Araujo, the player’s representative, has fanned those flames once again: “Europe is calling for Rafa, and the clubs that contacted us in January from the Premier League are still interested in taking him there.”
It’s no surprise to see the player angling for a move away from Benfica. He’s played just 479 minutes in the Portuguese league this season for the Águias, making just four starts in the process. He came off the bench in their Champions League defeat against CSKA Moscow with just a minute to spare.
This is his second season with the club. His maiden campaign wasn’t much better. He made just 12 starts in the Primeira Liga but did manage to score twice and assist a further four goals, despite his limited time on the pitch.
Unfortunately for all parties involved, Silva wasn’t able to replicate the form which convinced Benfica to part with £14.5million, the second most expensive purchase in the club’s history.
Once dubbed the Portuguese Eden Hazard, he’s in desperate need of a move to kickstart his career. But would the Premier League be a place he could thrive? The fleet-footed, versatile attacker is the sort of player who defenders in the English top flight hate to come up against.
Silva is direct, aggressive on the ball and explosive over 20 yards. His one downfall is his one footedness. He’s reliant on his right, so much so that he’ll look to hit the ball with the outside of his right foot instead of using using his left. It can make him somewhat predictable when it comes to the final ball.
It doesn’t mean he can’t terrorise defenders on a regular basis, though. In his limited minutes this season he’s averaged one dribble and 1.1 key passes. Stats wise he’s hard to read into because of the small sample size available but, even so, only two Leicester players and one Everton man average more key passes per 90 than Silva has.
When you watch him play it becomes clear what an exciting talent he could be. He just needs the right team to help him unlock his potential.
Rafa Silva’s strengths
Silva brings a lot the forward line and though he’s somewhat predictable, as previously mentioned, he is a box of tricks and he can create something out of nothing. With him on the ball, it’s hard to clog up any part part of the pitch. Furthermore, his quick feet are matched by his footballing brain. It’s this which makes him difficult to stop and why the Benfica No.27 is press resistant. A necessity in the Premier League.
In the above sequence you see him anticipate the onrushing opponent, poke the ball past him and skip away into the acres of space he’s just created for himself. He shows great awareness, speed and acceleration to relieve the pressure on his team just as it looked as though the away side would smother Benfica and pin them in their own half.
Mid-table Premier League sides will, more often than not, be under the cosh and having a player capable of doing this is priceless.
Another encouraging trait is just how positive and direct he is when he is in possession of the ball.
This time you see Silva’s dribbling ability and just how aggressive he is when attacking an opponent. He runs at the isolated defender and feints to go to the right before cutting onto the left. He’s clipped, and could go down, but shows a desire to put the ball into the back of the net. He’s thwarted by the goalkeeper but in this clip alone you see how dangerous he is when one-on-one.
An underrated aspect of his game is his use of the ball.
In the move above you see Silva in a deeper position, picking the ball up in his own half and playing a delightful outside-of-the-boot pass into space down the left for his team-mate to attack.
It’s perfectly weighted and the nine Sporting players behind the ball are taken out of the game. He forces them to scramble back towards their own goal and Benfica have four-on-four in the final third.
Everton and Leicester need a player like Silva. He’s a game changer and a match winner that both teams need.
The Toffees are in dire need of pace and creativity in their starting XI and someone of the Portuguese playmaker’s profile would tick the boxes. Sam Allardyce hasn’t been able, or even really tried, to get the best out of Gylfi Sigurðsson and as good as Theo Walcott is, he’s not a skeleton key capable of unlocking defences.
Leicester, on the other hand, need someone to play in place, as well as alongside, Riyad Mahrez. The Manchester City transfer target handed in yet another transfer request in January in an attempt to force through a move to the Etihad Stadium. But the Premier League champions-elect failed to meet the valuation the Foxes put on their No.26.
It’s likely he’ll look to make a move away from the King Power stadium again in the near future.
He’d be a welcomed addition to both squads and his arrival wouldn’t force either club to break the bank. In an inflated marker he’d be a shrewd signing. He’s a player who could help both clubs push for a European finish next season.