Just two months before Portugal kick off their FIFA World Cup 2022 campaign in Qatar, Rafa Silva today announced his retirement from the national team.
The speedy front man has been in superb form this season, scoring 6 goals and providing 4 assists in 13 matches, making a huge contribution to Benfica’s sensational 100% winning start to the new campaign.
He was included in the Portugal squad announced by Fernando Santos last week for the Nations League matches and would almost certainly have been in the World Cup squad.
“Today I informed the Seleção coach Fernando Santos and the Portuguese Football Federation that I would no longer be available to represent the national team,” began Rafa’s brief message that he sent to the Portuguese news agency Lusa.
“I believe it is an honest and correct decision at this point in my career. I ask that the reasons I have made this decision, which are personal, be respected by everyone.
“I represented the national teams 40 times, helped conquer Euro 2016 and the Nations League and I will always be in the front row supporting the team. I’m certain the Seleção will continue to bring joy to the Portuguese people, starting with the Nations League and World Cup 2022.”
At 29 years of age Rafa Silva accumulated 25 caps for the senior team after making his debut in 2014 in a friendly against Cameroon under previous Portugal coach Paulo Bento.
Rafa was in Portugal’s World Cup 2014, Euro 2016 and Euro 2020 squads, but he only spent 52 minutes on the pitch across the three tournaments.
Euro 2020 super sub versus Hungary
His most memorable contribution was in the Euro 2020 opener against Hungary. Rafa came on as a 71st-minute substitute with the match still goalless and was at the heart of three late goals as the Seleção ran out 3-0 winners. Rafa won a penalty and provided assists for Rafael Guerreiro and Cristiano Ronaldo.
In a perfect reflection of Rafa’s Seleção career, he was unable to build on that promising display to nail down a place in the team, playing little over 30 minutes in Portugal’s three subsequent matches in the tournament.
A reserved personality who rarely gives interviews, Rafa had to contend with rumours that the FPF were unhappy with his “lack of effort” and “complicated personality” towards the end of Portugal’s World Cup 2022 qualifying campaign as per Portuguese sports daily Record.
Fernando Santos strenuously shot down the report as “totally false” adding that “Rafa has been my player since 2015, he was a European champion, he won the Nations League, he’s a player I can always absolutely count on.”
Whether or not Rafa Silva would have seen many minutes in Qatar, Santos will be disappointed to have lost the services of a player with some unique attributes in the squad, namely his ability to dribble at a fearsome pace, especially at a time when he is playing arguably the best football of his career.
By Tom Kundert