Raphael Guerreiro is rediscovering his best form Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund. - 2018 DFL
Raphael Guerreiro is rediscovering his best form Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund. - 2018 DFL
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Raphael Guerreiro: Borussia Dortmund's underrated star

He is perhaps one of the most unsung heroes of Borussia Dortmund's rise to the top of the Bundesliga, but Raphael Guerreiro's contribution to their successful season cannot be underestimated.

The Portuguese winger has had to battle with injury setbacks during his time with Dortmund, but under Lucien Favre this season, the UEFA EURO 2016 winner has been producing some of his finest football, not least with a goal and an assist in their Matchday 19 win over Hannover.

While Jadon Sancho, Marco Reus, Paco Alcacer, Achraf Hakimi and Mario Götze have been busy sweeping up most of the headlines, Guerreiro has been silently pulling some strings, and he earned a shot at a share of the spotlight himself last weekend.

"It was a great feeling," he said after netting his first Bundesliga goal of 2018/19 in the 5-1 win. "We could have won it more convincingly."

Raphael Guerreiro notched his eighth Bundesliga goal for Borussia Dortmund against Hannover, his first since the barnstorming 4-4 draw with Revierderby rivals Schalke in November 2017. - AFP/Getty Images

His own seven-mile ground coverage was convincing enough, and the fact he had the most shots on goal of a Dortmund player speaks volumes about how effective he was. Switching from left to right, Guerreiro was the fulcrum of BVB's play in a performance which, two and a half years after he joined from FC Lorient, perhaps marked the 25-year-old's true arrival in the Westphalians' well-oiled machine.

"He's in really good form right now," said Dortmund's sporting director Michael Zorc. "You can see he's really enjoying his football again." That has not always been the case, however. At the start of the season, injury restricted him to just a handful of appearances. Similar setbacks prevented him from making more than nine appearances in his second Bundesliga campaign, yet he has knuckled down and proven to Favre that he has another reliable option on the wing.

Guerreiro has started four of Dortmund's last five Bundesliga fixtures – and they have won all of them. The one he missed? Dortmund's 2-1 defeat to Fortuna Düsseldorf – their only loss this season. "Slowly but surely, he's been getting better and better for a few weeks now," acknowledged Favre, having passed his playing philosophy on and seen the desired results.

While Marco Reus (l.) and Jadon Sancho (background) have claimed most of the headlines for Dortmund this season, Guerreiro deserves some for his performances. - imago/Uwe Kraft

That philosophy is one of high-pressing, fervent attacking. This seems to suit Guerreiro, who has played deeper for his country and was even fielded in the centre of midfield by Favre's predecessor and current Paris Saint-Germain coach Thomas Tuchel. His place in Favre's favoured 4-2-3-1 formation is even keeping the esteemed likes of Christian Pulisic, Jacob Bruun Larsen and Marius Wolf on the bench.

That could well change when the UEFA Champions League comes along again, and the fixtures pile up, but Favre will be reluctant to rest Guerreiro in Europe where he has been particularly impressive this term. With braces against Atletico Madrid and Monaco, he helped BVB top their group and set up a last-16 tie with Tottenham Hotspur.

With Guerreiro currently enjoying his best-prolonged spell of form since joining Dortmund, the Westphalians can look forward to that game with even greater anticipation and excitement, and the Portugal international is furthering his cause for a new contract beyond the expiry of his current one in 2020.

Then, he will aim to defend the European Championship he won in Paris, and who knows if he might not have another title to defend that year as Dortmund seek to wrestle the Bundesliga from Bayern Munich's grasp, thanks in no small part to a Portuguese playmaker pulling the strings silently yet effectively.

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