He fled from the Angolan Civil War at the age of eight after both of his parents had been killed, and resided at first illegally in the Netherlands. There he did not receive a work permit and was therefore unable to play football professionally, forcing him to move elsewhere.
In 2002 he signed for Hertha BSC in Germany. In 2006 he was signed by Borussia Mönchengladbach. His first season at AGF was partly spoiled by injuries, making his impact on the team less significant than expected. His physically strong appearance makes him a solid target player, but he also has good technical skills and is a competent goal scorer. He joined from AGF on 10 January 2010 on loan to FC Augsburg for one season. On 19 July 2010, Rafael signed a two-year contract with FC Augsburg.