Brazil full-back Rafinha has recounted meetings with Australia flyer Mathew Leckie during the 2016-17 Bundesliga season, saying the 26-year-old is “going up”.
Indeed Leckie is going up. Relegated with fledgling Bavarian club FC Ingolstadt, with whom he spent three years for 94 games, Leckie secured a transfer to capital heavyweights Hertha Berlin in May.
Rafinha is set to renew hostilities with Leckie when Brazil face Australia in a high-profile friendly at the MCG on 13 June, next Tuesday.
Bayern’s right-back has matched up against Leckie before in the Bundesliga, and the Melbourne product gave Bayern’s defence plenty to think about in a meeting at Allianz Arena in September.
Leckie, who on the day was being marshalled by Rafinha, registered an assist for Ingolstadt as they opened the scoring against the reigning champions.
But despite the goal from Dario Lezcano, Bayern turned the tables and won the game 3-1. Rafinha netted a goal of his own.
Speaking in Melbourne ahead of Brazil’s friendly against South American rivals Argentina, Rafinha remembered that game, hailing Leckie as a “great player”.
“He’s a really good player … against us, Bayern, he played really well, both games,” he said.
“He scored a goal against me. He’s a really great player and he had a really great year.
“He is going up.”
And Rafinha insisted the game against the Albiceleste, as well as the match against Australia, will be taken seriously by Brazil.
“It will be two friendlies, but the teams, when they play against Brazil, everybody wants to play really well,” he added.
“Against Argentina, it’s a friendly, but it’s a classic of world football.
“Against Australia, they are playing for their country so for sure they will be playing for a positive result.
“It’s a friendly, but when we get on the field, it becomes a normal game so everybody wants to win.”
No.1 ranked FIFA nation Brazil have already secured 2018 World Cup qualification out of the South American group, while Argentina’s campaign is in limbo.
They sit an uncomfortable fifth, two points behind second-placed Colombia with four matches remaining.