Raphael Guerreiro's Black & Yellow career got off to a very impressive start throughout the 2016/17 campaign, but the following season, his progress was stalled by a series of unfortunate injuries. However, from December 2018 onwards, the Portuguese full-back has managed to pin down a more-or-less fixed place in the BVB starting line-up. For the 26-year-old, football is all about ''bringing individual qualities into play for the benefit of the team as a whole. Of course, this also depends on your teammates. We all see the game in the same way and have a great relationship off the pitch too.'' 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 provided the delivery that Cristiano Ronaldo headed into the back of the net to secure a 1-0 win over Wales in the semi-final.
The Portuguese is a modern full-back in every sense of the word. 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. In his 23 league matches in the 2018/19 season, he picked up eight scorer points (two goals, six assists) – setting a new personal record for season assists. In the same year, he also racked up some impressive numbers in the Champions League: he bagged a brace in both the memorable 4-0 triumph over Atlético Madrid as well as the 2-0 win away to AS Monaco. ''At the moment I'm aware of how much I'm able to contribute to the team. I've never felt this way before. This season has definitely been the happiest of my career so far,'' said Guerreiro at the time. 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.
When he was eleven years old, 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. Portugal is in my heart, and that's why I chose to play for the 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 total, he managed to make just nine Bundesliga appearances in the 2017/18 season, largely because of muscular problems suffered throughout the second round of fixtures. In fact, the only time he was named in the starting line-up 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. Looking back on it now, I have to admit that my eating habits weren't always optimal. Now I have a lot more vegetables than I used to and make sure to not eat too much. It seems to have paid off - I'm no longer struggling with muscular problems.''