Although born and raised in Paris, Raphael Guerreiro is Portuguese through and through.''My family, my way of thinking, the way I was brought up - all of this makes me Portuguese,’’ says the full-back, who has been a BVB player for four years now. ''I have a French passport as well as a Portuguese one, but my heart has always beat for Portugal. I have always respected France, but I could never imagine playing for the French national team.''
Guerreiro moved to Dortmund in 2016 on the back of winning the Euros with Portugal. In fact, he almost stole the headlines in the final: shortly before Eder's winning goal in extra-time, Guerreiro had struck the post from a free-kick. What is more, he delivered the corner that Cristiano Ronaldo headed into the back of the net to secure a 1-0 win over Wales in the semi-final.
Guerreiro is an immensely gifted and accomplished full-back. He has a real eye for goal in the final third and has the ability to cause problems for opposition defences through his intelligence and technical skill, not to mention his deadly set-piece delivery. He won 54% of his tackles in 2019/20 and also posed a threat offensively, picking up nine scorer points in the second half of the season (six goals, three assists).
The full-back was born and raised in Le Blanc-Mesnil, a housing development on the outskirts of Paris that was struck by the riots of the autumn of 2005. The Stade de France is located no more than 10km from where he grew up. So it was that Guerreiro - who has a Portuguese father, a French mother and a passport for both countries - won the European Cup with Portugal on his own doorstep in the French capital.
At 11 years of age, Guerreiro was selected for the Centre Technique National Fernand-Sastre, the French Football Foundation's renowned academy in Clairefontaine. Among his classmates back then were Paul Pogba and Raphael Varane, to name just a few.
Three years later, Guerreiro was recruited by the SM Caen youth programme. From 2010 onwards, he was regularly turning out for their reserve team in the French fourth-tier. In 2012, at 18 years of age, he signed his first professional contract. One year later, he moved to FC Lorient, where he would go on to make 102 appearances and score 10 goals – an impressive record for a full-back. Guerreiro's strength going forward is one of the defining characteristics of his game, alongside his tactical intelligence, which he believes he developed as a means of compensating for his diminutive stature: ''I was always one of the smallest players in my team, but that was never a problem. I always found a way to keep pace with the others.''
Guerreiro made his debut for the Portugal U21s in 2013 and just one year later, he made the step up to the senior team, winning his first cap in November 2014. With just 12 appearances to his name, he was involved in his country's greatest ever success – triumph at the Euros in 2016. However, the full-back might well have lined up for the opposing team that day. After all, he would have been eligible to represent France. But for the dyed-in-the-wool Benfica fan, there was only ever one option: ''I have a strong French identity, because I speak the language better than I do Portuguese. However, I definitely feel more Portuguese. When I was young, I always used to cheer on the Portugal national team.
June 2017 marked the beginning of a long period plagued by injuries. First, while representing Portugal at the Confederations Cup in Russia, he suffered an ankle fracture (not initially identified by his national team doctor) which left him sidelined for four months. In fact, the only time he managed to make the starting line-up in 2017/18 was on the very last matchday of the season. Nonetheless, he was still called up for the Portugal squad for the 2018 World Cup, where he started all four matches.
''I've recently made a lot of changes to my lifestyle,'' says Guerreiro as he discusses his injury issues, which he hopes are now a thing of the past. ''A physiotherapist comes to my house once a week to work on my muscles. That really helps my recovery after matches. I've also altered my diet. I now eat a lot more vegetables than I used to, for example.”