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Rafael joins Royals ranks

Former Santos, Napoli and Sampdoria stopper pens three-year deal with the Royals

6 August 2019

Reading Football Club are delighted to announce that Brazilian goalkeeper Rafael has signed a three-year contract at the club.

The 29-year-old stopper joins permanently to swap Serie A side Sampdoria for squad number 33 at Madejski Stadium.

Manager José Gomes said, “In Rafael, we have a goalkeeper who can bring valuable experience of football played at the very highest level. He will be an excellent addition to our core team of goalkeepers and I look forward to welcoming him into my squad.”

Having come through the Academy ranks at Santos, Rafael Cabral Barbosa made his professional debut against Cruzeiro in Mineirão, keeping a clean sheet in a goalless affair in June 2010.


The 6’1” stopper soon became a regular at the Estádio Vila Belmiro and made more than 100 appearances for Santos before swapping South America for Europe in signing for Napoli in 2013.

Initially playing understudy to Pepe Reina, Rafael soon became Rafa Benitez’s no.1 at Stadio San Paolo, making his debut against Udinese in December 2013.

His first taste of European competition came in two different tournaments that season - both against British opposition. He started against Arsenal in a 2-0 Champions League victory that came courtesy of a Gonzalo Higuain strike in Naples, before keeping a clean sheet in a 0-0 draw against Swansea City in the Europa League a couple of months later.


At the end of 2014, Rafael came up against opposite number Gianluigi Buffon in the Supercoppa Italiana played between cup-winners Napoli and Serie A champions Juventus. Rafael saved spotkicks from Giorgio Chiellini Simone Padoin to bring the silverware back to Naples.

He moved to Sampdoria last summer but mutually agreed to cancel his contract early at Stadio Luigi Ferraris to allow him to leave Genoa and begin a fresh new challenge under José Gomes in RG2.

Internationally, Rafael has represented Brazil on three occasions. Named in the same national side as Neymar, Oscar, Thiago Silva and Hulk, his debut came in a 4-1 win against Jurgen Klinsmann’s USA side in front of 67,619 at FedEx Field in Maryland and he started in two more friendlies during the summer of 2012 - against Mexico and then Lionel Messi’s Argentina.

Chief Executive Nigel Howe said, “We enjoyed success with a South American goalkeeper between the posts last season and Rafael, a player with international, European and top flight football included on his CV, will be an excellent addition to our team of first team goalkeepers. So I am very pleased to welcome Rafael to Reading.”

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