Roughly four and a half months ago, Rafael Cabral was in incredible form. Stepping in to goal for Pepe Reina, who was less than healthy himself and hadn't been playing particularly well, Rafael put in several stunning performances, showing top-notch shot stopping skills and looking better than expected at a number of other skills that a goalkeeper needs to do their job.
Possibly his best match was against Swansea City, where his defense was struggling to contain the Welsh side's attack, but he made brilliant save after brilliant save after miraculous save. It seemed more and more like nothing would stop him that day... then something did.
Near the end of the first half, Rafael fell and clutched his knee in apparent agony, though the (incredibly annoying) English commentators were absolutely convinced he was faking an injury to waste time, even well after it was clear that he couldn't move properly and was in some amount of pain. He was removed at halftime, and later diagnosed with a torn ACL.
Since then, the only whispers we've gotten of Rafael's progress has been via his (very entertaining) Instagram account, and today he's used it to pass along some very excellent news indeed.
"Today I've passed the necessary tests to return to play," Rafael said. "Four and a half months after the surgery and the results were wonderful. [...] I must thank the Santos Football Club for their support ever for having offered me this structure for my recovery, [...] I want to thank SSC Napoli for the structure, support, care they had with me throughout, always present never leaving me to miss anything. Now I get to do the coolest thing... play football!"
In a week that hasn't always been filled with such hot news, this is more than welcome. If Rafael can get fit and playing well again, he has the raw potential to be one of the best goalkeepers in Italy, if not in Europe and the world. With any chance of bringing back Pepe Reina gone at this point, many were wondering what Napoli would do at the position and who they would buy to be a starter. Well, worry not: they've already got a keeper who's better than any keeper on the market, and was out-performing Reina when he got injured.