FEATURE | World Cup One to Watch: Raphaël Guerreiro

Even at 28, Raphaël Guerreiro is still one of Borussia Dortmund’s strongest defensive assets and one which the Signal Iduna Park-based club would, despite the widely reported interest from Leeds United and other clubs including Barcelona, do well to hang on to. Simply put, the 56-time Portuguese international remains one of the best wing-backs in world football. Arguably even better when running the line, Guerriero has an exceptional knowhow of when to get forward. The French-born defender has one of the highest through-ball completion rates in the Bundesliga and is also one of the most experienced and popular players in Edin Terzic’s young team.

Since joining from Lorient in 2016, Guerreiro has made over 200 appearances for Dortmund. Amongst the qualities the lifelong Benfica fan is recognised for is his versatility as a player. Looking comfortable at left-back, the position he mostly plays for the Portuguese national team, he is also strong as a wing back. Naturally left-footed, Guerreiro is most comfortable on the left side of the pitch, he is a multi-dimensional player who has great technique on the ball.

Raised in France, the son of Portuguese parents is highly valued for his crosses which are consistently well-timed. The highly popular defender is an intelligent player who can read the game very effectively and can contribute to the attack which is demonstrated by the 37 goals he has scored to date for ‘Die Schwarzgelben’. 

At 1.70m, Guerreiro does not compare favourably in terms of height for a defender in the German league, but what he lacks in physical stature, he more than makes up with excellent balance and agility, as well as speed. Guerreiro has seldom looked out of sorts in the Dortmund line-up and is regularly amongst the Dortmund players with the highest match ratings.

In terms of statistics, Guerreiro is a robust and highly able tackler, he has a defensive tackle win rate of 71% which puts him in the top 10% in European football. Where Dortmund’s number 13 is less impressive is on interceptions – his 5.61 pass interceptions per 90 is below the average of 6 for his position. A further area of weakness is, as might be expected for his height, is his win rate when it comes to the aerial side of his game, which is also below average at 23%.

What the Dortmunder lacks in aerial dominance, he more than makes up in his combative presence, in particular in counter-pressing. Guerreiro is almost a perfect match for what has become the classic BVB trademark style of play. The Portuguese defender is also highly-effective when played in midfield which is an asset to a team like BVB that has suffered a high injury rate in the last two seasons. Guerreiro has consistently demonstrated his ability to cover either side of the pitch. He is highly-rated by observers and fellow players alike for his pitch perfect passing ability which measures 69.71 passes per 90 with an 89.13% completion rate, a measure comparable to Bayern’s Benjamin Pavard in the Bundesliga.

The 56-time Portugal international is an explosive and robust defender who is highly versatile and can contribute effectively in midfield. He is a player who is highly valued for his ability to progress the ball up the pitch, although he is strong at getting the ball to the final third, he is not a high scorer and prefers passing the ball or shooting from outside of the penalty box. Guerreiro does however have a very strong offensive output. In the current season he has scored three goals and provided two assists for BVB and has a goal conversion rate of 27% but he has a noticeable 64% shot accuracy ratio.

The defender made his debut against Sweden in 2013. Amongst his honours was being part of the team that won the European Championships in France in 2016. Guerreiro was also part of the team that won the 2019 UEFA Nations League and was a member of the Portugal team that reached the last 16 in the Euro 2020 tournament.

Highly popular with fans of the ‘Black and Yellows’, Guerreiro can also look back at very successful career-defining moments with Borussia Dortmund during which time he can count the 2017 and 2021 DFB Pokal titles amongst the highlights of his six years with the club.

The 2022 tournament is, due to his age and the competition in his position, which includes the likes of PSG’s Nuno Mendes and Manchester City left-back Joao Cancelo, likely to be Guerreiro’s last for the ‘Seleção’. Either way with Guerreiro’s Dortmund contract running out in the summer, some strong performances at the World Cup will certainly strengthen his case for a contract renewal or indeed a high-paying move to the Premier League or La Liga.

GGFN | Ben McFadyean

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