By Mark Weasley
From Bobby and Jack Charlton to Frank and Ronald de Boer to Hamil and Halil Altintop, The footballing world has always been blessed with players from the same family playing the game to the highest standards.
Manchester United fans must have been on cloud nine when the club signed 18-year old identical twins, Fabio and Rafael da Silva from Fluminense in 2008, after the club’s scouting system had identified the pair. The Red Devils were initially linked to Fabio, but the player’s agent informed the club that the twins couldn’t be separated at that age, so the club plumped for both.
They developed through the ranks and ultimately got promoted to the first team at almost the same time. The club fans were besotted with the Brazilian duo, as they were inseparable, looked exactly the same and were both defenders.
However, the tide favoured Rafael, as he was the understudy to legend, Gary Neville. The legendary right back was coming to the end of the cycle at Old Trafford, and Sir Alex Ferguson knew that the Englishman needed an understudy and took Rafael under his wings.
On the other side, Patrice Evra was still going on strong, meaning that Fabio suffered to displace the Frenchman and impose himself on the first team. The lack of game time meant that as the pair grew in stature, the match experience created a gulf in quality between the pair that is now difficult to match even now.
Their paths have gone differently, Fabio left Old Trafford in 2013 to Cardiff first and then permanently on loan the next year, however he has suffered three regulations with as many clubs since leaving The Theatre of Dreams.
Rafael played at the club till 2015, but left for Lyon after suffering from lack of gametime under Louis van Gaal, but is quietly rebuilding his reputation at the French club. The trajectories of the players couldn’t have been more different, but they must have separate careers. Football does not know blood, one must carve out his own path and for Fabio, the path has not been as good as his twin, though he was the better player as a teenager.