Rafael Santos Borré was born on 15 September 1995 in Barranquilla, Colombia. He started playing football on a professional level with Deportivo Cali and immediately impressed for the Colombian side from Medellin. He managed to score ten goals in 24 matches before penning a six year deal with Spanish giants Atlético Madrid, before being loaned back to Deportivo Cali again. After getting injured at Deportivo Cali and playing only nine matches for the Colombian side in 2016, he moved to Villarreal on loan.
Even though he played 30 matches for the Villarreal, he did not manage to impress for the Spanish team. After that season, he moved to River Plate where he found back his scoring boots, despite still not being a clinical finisher. In total, he has scored 35 goals and made 13 assists for the Argentinian giants in 100 matches. Atlético Madrid have a buy-back clause and they are expected to buy him back to then sell him on for a higher fee.
River Plate have recently played in a 3-5-2 formation, but have also played in a 4-1-3-2 formation for a long time, with both wide midfielders showing good cooperation with the full-backs and providing variation in River Plate’s playing style. Matías Suárez and Rafael Santos Borré are a well-balanced striker partnership, with Matías Suárez often operating centrally, with Rafael Santos Borré often drifting wide and either dropping deeper or making runs in behind.
Rafael Santos Borré is very smart in his positioning. He is capable of playing in a central area between the two central defenders, but he can also drift wide to create space in the center of the pitch. The Colombian striker often scans to see where his opponents are. In the video down below, you can see an example of his smart positioning. Santos Borré moves between the two central defenders. He has a good body position which allows him to touch the ball into space before tucking it away comfortably. In this video you can also see his excellent first touch and technique.
In transition, Rafael Santos Borré likes to move wide to make sure that River Plate have a passing option. He is very active in doing so and is able to hold up play well. Standing at only 174cm, he is not the biggest and physically strong, but he is able to hold his own well and can hold off defenders. He is very smart in holding up play and waiting for support from the midfield and can cut away from opponents well. However, he can be sloppy in possession at times, especially in these situations when he needs to play longer passes. In this video however, it goes well.
The 24-year-old has a good first touch and controls the ball well whenever he is put under pressure. He has good short passing ability and can link up well with his teammates in the tight spaces. His strongest abilities are definitely making runs in behind, creating space for other players and linking up with his teammates. In the video down below, you can see how he chests it down – which could have been an attempt to touch it down. However, when he chests it down, he immediately moves wide which attracts the right central defender of Tucuman to drift wide as well which creates more space in the center of the pitch.
As mentioned above, Rafael Santos Borré is only 174cm which does not make him a threat through the air, but he is able to arrive into the box at the right time and exploiting the weaknesses of the oppositions defence. In the video down below, Matiás Suárez attracts his opponent to follow him which opens up space near the penalty box. Santos Borré arrives at the right time and heads it into the goal easily. The cooperation between M. Suárez and Santos Borré is very good and this is a good example of it.
The striker definitely is not a clinical striker who finishes most of his chances, but despite him not being that clinical, he stays calm and composed in the final third and he has an eye for his teammate. He has been unlucky with his teammates not finishing off his chances as he could have had more than his one assist he made this season. In the video down below, most players would have shot towards goal immediately, but Borré manages to find Nicolas de la Cruz in the box who fails to convert his chance.
The Colombian international likes to drift wide whenever the Milton Casco or Gonzalo Montiel need a passing option down the wing. Rafael Santos Borré is very active with his off the ball movement and always wants to make a run in behind while drifting wide. Both full-backs are good at playing through passes and River Plate are often dangerous with these passes. The Colombian plays a good cross, but he fails to reach Nicolas de la Cruz.
Rafael Santos Borré is very hardworking in the transition from attack to defence and is used very effectively by Gallardo. Especially when the oppositions midfield is in possession, Rafael Santos Borré can be very intense in tracking back and surprising the opposition when they take too long in the ball. However, he can overcommit at times and he likes to slide tackle his opponent, which often leads to a foul and sometimes a yellow card.
Standing at 174cm, he is not the most physically imposing player and he loses most aerial duels. Especially against bigger opponents, he has no chance in the aerial duels which means that he has to be smart in the duels. He has played 90 minutes a lot of times and there is nothing negative to say about his stamina. He works very hard in both the attacking and defensive phase of play. Rafael Santos Borré has good acceleration but it is not outstanding and he is able to keep up with his pace over long distances as well.
To conclude, Rafael Santos Borré is very effective in creating space for his teammates, but also getting into space himself. He is a great asset to Gallardo’s side and despite the fact that he is not a clinical striker, he scores a lot of goals because he manages to get into scoring position often, while also being able to provide his teammates with scoring opportunities.
Where should he move?
Rafael Santos Borré has developed himself well at River Plate and is definitely capable of getting his revanche in LaLiga. I think that he should move back to LaLiga and play for a midtable team. He fits well next to a striker that is more of a targetman, which would allow Santos Borré to make runs in behind, drift out wide and roam around the targetman. The Colombian could also play as a single striker in a 4-2-3-1 with a creative attacking midfielder behind him, who can hold up play well and plays very high up the pitch in possession. The striker is very well-rounded and could play in a counter-minded team, using his qualities of making runs in behind. He could also play in a dominate team, using his qualities to link up with his teammates, while also making runs in behind and having a lot of variation in the final third.