Rafael da Silva has revealed he was convinced to join Manchester United after Cristiano Ronaldo phoned him up personally.
The Brazilian full-back moved from boyhood club Fluminense to Old Trafford in 2008 alongside twin brother Fabio, linking up with Sir Alex Ferguson’s side as a highly promising 18-year-old after being tracked for a number of years.
Capped twice by Brazil in 2012, Rafael went on to appear 170 times for Man Utd during a career that spanned seven years in the north west of England, mopping up plenty of winner’s medals in that time, including three Premier Leagues.
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Rafael, along with brother Fabio, have made no secret that moving to one of the biggest footballing institutions at such a young age was a daunting experience, but a certain phone call from one of the club’s superstars made that transition slightly easier.
“He [Ronaldo] called my phone, and I’ll never forget that,” Rafael told UTD Podcast.
“My phone had all the zeros [on the screen, to indicate an international call] and I was saying ‘Who is this? I’ve never received a call like this.’ I answered, and I knew him because I’d trained with him before.
“He just said: ‘Ah, [Portuguese greeting]!’ I ran to my bus saying: ‘It’s Ronaldo, it’s Ronaldo! He’s calling us to speak!’
“He just said: ‘It’s raining here, it’s raining here in Manchester, like you know.’ He said: ‘I call to say to you guys: sign for Manchester United. I know you are going to like it,’ et cetera.
“I could not believe [it]. It was amazing.”
Fabio went on to explain that Rafael became familiar with Ronaldo following several trials and training days at Carrington, during which time he bulked up on his return to Rio de Janeiro before signing a professional contract with the club.
“When my brother came back from his first time, from 20 days [of] training with Man United, he was so excited,” Fabio explained.
“He actually got bigger. I didn’t go the first time he went, because I was with the Under-15s in Brazil, and he went on his own.
“He came back so excited, speaking about everything: how big the training ground was, the players he met, and he met Sir Alex Ferguson. He was so excited. To be honest, we are twins, so, of course, he spoke with me and told me everything, but I couldn’t feel his excitement.
“John Calvert [-Toulmin], the scout, said ‘They really like us.’ So, for us, we said: ‘Maybe it’s going to happen.’ We start to have a few of these trials, or like training days. Ronaldo called us to [encourage us to] sign. I think Sir Alex got him to call us. That time, I actually thought: this is true!”