Brazil manager Tite will have his hands full in choosing his new starting right-back this summer.
After Dani Alves suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury in his right knee during Paris Saint-Germain’s Coupe de France final victory over Les Herbiers, the Brazilian FA confirmed Friday the linchpin will miss the 2018 World Cup. Still a constant threat down the right wing at 35 years of age, Alves’ absence will undoubtedly be felt when the Amarelinha kicks off its tournament against Switzerland on June 17.
But while Brazil has a surplus at left-back with a plethora of starting candidates such as Marcelo, Alex Sandro, and Filipe Luis, the same can’t earnestly be said for the opposite side. In fact, Alves was considered such a runaway for the right-back spot that Tite boldly guaranteed in February he would be in Brazil’s 23-man squad come June.
Tite now needs to find a replacement, however, and these five candidates have a possibility of nabbing the starting right-back role in Russia.
Fagner – Corinthians
Corinthians’ 28-year-old may not be as well-known outside Brazil as within, but Fagner is perhaps the current favourite to replace Alves. It was Tite who first called up the former Wolfsburg man for World Cup qualifiers in late 2016 and gave him an international debut a month later in a 1-0 friendly win over Colombia, and Fagner has since won another three caps under the coach.
Though he appears to a favourite of Tite’s, Fagner’s inclusion would pose a small risk. According to Globo Esporto’s Bruno Cassucci, he is still nursing a right thigh injury suffered on April 29, and his potential participation in Russia will need to be approved by Brazil team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar over a visit this weekend.
Danilo – Manchester City
Once considered Brazil’s starting right-back of the future, Danilo has failed to live up to those expectations since swapping Porto for Real Madrid in the summer of 2015. However, his stock has recovered slightly since joining Manchester City prior to this season, where Pep Guardiola has utilised the 26-year-old in both full-back positions and as a more attacking-minded wing-back.
Danilo’s biggest flaw is arguably a lack of consistency, both for club and country. Though his role under Guardiola has been diverse, he still falls behind Kyle Walker and Fabian Delph on City’s full-back pecking order. He hasn’t had much recent national team experience, either; the 26-year-old has yet to play in any major international tournament.
Rafinha – Bayern Munich
Rafinha hasn’t donned the iconic yellow shirt in well over a year, but if Tite wants a veteran, Bayern Munich’s versatile full-back offers a viable option. Fresh off a new contract extension with Bayern, Rafinha’s ability to play multiple positions not only provides A Selecao with a safe choice but also leadership for the younger names who are all but certain to represent Brazil this summer, including Gabriel Jesus (21) and Marquinhos (23).
Rafinha’s experience could potentially work against him in the selection process, however. With Brazil having relied on Alves at right-back for nearly eight years, it may be time to find a new long-term successor. Already 32, Rafinha wouldn’t be a permanent solution.
Fabinho – Monaco
The youngest of the five potential replacements, Fabinho, 24, could earn his first call-up by Tite. The Monaco man was selected on a number of occasions by former Brazil coach Dunga, but his path to playing time was consistently blocked by Alves. Despite being picked for two editions of the Copa America, Fabinho was confined to the bench for a total of seven games as his compatriot cemented his monopoly at the position.
But while Fabinho has vast experience commanding the right flank, the timing may not line up perfectly for the Ligue 1 champion; he hasn’t played consistently as a right-back for Monaco since 2015-16, subsequently solidifying his role as a defensive anchor in midfield.
Fernandinho – Manchester City
While not a right-back by trade, Fernandinho does have limited defensive history thanks to Guardiola, who deployed the traditional box-to-box midfielder in the backline in a handful of matches down the final stretch of last season. But, in 41 international caps, Fernandinho has never played there for Brazil.
Slotting him in at right-back could complicate matters elsewhere for the national side, however, as the 33-year-old is a strong candidate for one of the three midfield spots in Tite’s expected 4-3-3 starting formation.
(Photos courtesy: Action Images)