Rafinha not looking to replace Xavi
Barcelona midfield starlet Rafinha says he is focused on learning from, not replacing, Xavi Hernandez next season.
Rafinha, 21, is returning to the Camp Nou for the new campaign, having impressed on loan at Celta Vigo last season under incoming Blaugrana coach Luis Enrique.
Xavi's future at Barca is less certain, with reports first suggesting that the 34-year-old playmaker had agreed a move to Qatari side Al Arabi, but then claiming the deal had fallen through. Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu said this week that the long-time player had earned the right to decide his own future plans.
Speaking to AS, the younger player, who is currently on holiday in his home country of Brazil, said he always shut up and listened whenever Xavi talked about football.
"There are many great players, stars," Rafinha said. "But one who I have always admired is Xavi, who is very intelligent. He has a lot of experience, and I always try to stay quiet and pay attention to what he says."
Rafinha, who spent two seasons as a regular with Barccelona B before going on loan to Celta last summer, said he was looking forward to returning to play in Barca's first team next year.
"It was a good season in Vigo and I took advantage of it, on loan from Barcelona," he said. "To be capable of returning to Barca makes me really happy, above all knowing how difficult it is to play in a great team like this."
The son of ex-Brazilian midfielder Mazinho and brother of Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcantara, Rafinha said he expected Luis Enrique to not change much tactically at Barca next season, but predicted a big focus on fitness.
"Fortunately for me, Luis Enrique will keep the 4-3-3 he used at Celta, so I believe the tactics will not change too much," Rafinha said. "What will change will be the physical preparation."