Arsenal Women have signed 30-year-old Brazil centre-half Rafaelle Souza after her contract at Chinese club Changchun Zhuoyue expired. Rafaelle (pronounced “Haf-eye-elly”) spent last season on loan at Palmeiras in her native Brazil. The move was reported by Arseblog News earlier this month.
Rafaelle played in China for five years before leaving at the end of her contract in December, saying that the covid situation made it difficult for her to continue to play in the country. Rafaelle has also played for Houston Dash but Arsenal will be her first European club and she will also be Arsenal Women’s first Brazilian player.
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The experienced defender comes in with Anna Patten having joined Aston Villa on loan this January and with Laura Wienroither also having been added to the squad during this window.
Rafaelle Souza has 33 caps for her country and has formed a solid partnership with Erika at the heart of the Brazil defence. She was a Copa America winner in 2018. Nicknamed ‘Fafa’, Rafaelle is a left-footed centre-half with good long and short distribution and she is renowned for her ability in the air. Jen Beattie and Viki Schnaderbeck’s deals expire at the end of the season and both are unlikely to extend. Rafaelle has played at left-back regularly during her career too as well as in midfield.
“I’m so excited.” Rafaelle told Arsenal.com. “I feel great to be here and to be playing in such a strong and competitive league. I feel like when I decided to come here, I was looking for a club where I can show my football and show my skills and be in the centre of the world. That’s my challenge, to show my football to the world.”
“We’re delighted to be able to welcome Rafaelle to the club,” said head coach Jonas Eidevall. “Her international experience, technical ability and leadership qualities make her an important signing for us – I’m looking forward to working with her and I’m sure the Arsenal fans are excited to see her in action.”