Sobis is so special

Rafael Sobis made his BRAZIL DEBUT against Wales and then gained a second cap against Argentina on Brazil's recent European tour to enhance his growing reputation. By RIATH AL-SAMARRAI.

Rafael Sobis is already making quite a name for himself in Europe.

Real Betis' Brazilian star showed just what he is made of in a recent Primera Liga clash with arch-rivals Sevilla.

With his side trailing 1-0, the 21-year-old made a stunning impact in just his second game for the club.

Collecting the ball deep in his own half with half an hour played, Sobis put his head down and went on the attack, leaving Dirnei Renato in his wake before unleashing a 35-yard shot which grazed the crossbar.

It was an early warning and Sevilla reacted by deploying a man marker, but it didn't work.

Just 10 minutes later Sobis broke free, received a pass and charged into the area before blasting an equaliser inside the near post from 18 yards.

Things then got even better.

Eight minutes after the interval Sobis again shrugged off his marker inside the area and then, with a superb volley, grabbed his second of the game.

Even though Betis lost 3-2 it was clear by the time Sobis was substituted three minutes from time just why his new club had paid 8 million euros (GBP5.3 million) to Internacionale and signed him for an eight-year contract.

The youngster spoke of his delight at joining Betis and insisted he would work hard to prove a success for his new employers.

"I am very happy to have signed for Betis," he stated. "I can't promise goals, but lots of hard work. I want to succeed at Betis."

Shock at his hefty transfer fee is fast fading, but football fans in his homeland will not have been surprised.

Sobis took his first strides in professional football as an 18-year-old at Internacionale in the Brazilian championship, debuting towards the end of the 2003-04 season.

He found the net a handful of times to help the club to the Rio Grande do Sul State league title in 2004, and then chipped in another 13 in 2004-05 as they retained their title, before joining up with the Brazilian Under-20 side for the World Youth Football Championship in Holland. It was a painful few weeks for the prodigy as he scored just two goals en route to a semi-final defeat against Argentina.

It would be in the following year, 2005-06, that South America truly realised what potential was contained within his slight build.

His 19 goals in 35 games, many coming at the end of his own mazy dribbles, had the press raving and by November 2005 he was the subject of enquiries from Inter Milan.

The move didn't go ahead, but on the pitch it was business as usual and the young striker's prowess in the box led some fans to believe he could lead their club to the Copa Libertadores title for the first time in history.

He continued scoring and creating the bulk of the club's goals, deploying Ronaldo-esque stepovers as he went. Then things got a bit surreal for the lad from Erechim.

Having scored the decisive goal in their Copa Libertadores quarter-final against LDU Quito in July this year, he found himself splashed across every newspaper in Brazil.

It was nothing compared to what would follow a month later, though.

Appearing in the final of South America's most prestigious club championship, he scored the two goals that saw off Sao Paulo and made history for Internacionale. He was a Libertadores champion, top-scorer and a hero in his homeland.

AC Milan then tried to sign him, Bayern Munich made an approach and Racing Santander thought they had him until Real Betis pulled off what Spanish daily newspaper `Marca' considered "one of the signings of the season".

He made his Brazil debut against Wales and then gained a second cap against Argentina on Brazil's recent European tour to enhance his growing reputation.

Some are calling him the new Ronaldo, others believe he could prove to be even better.

Only time will tell.

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