Sir Alex Ferguson believes Rafael has overcome the impetuous streak that was threatening to prevent him maximising his potential.
The Brazilian made a big impact after joining Manchester United in 2008, large enough to get him a place on the bench for the following year's Champions League final defeat to Barcelona.
Yet a red card in the 2010 quarter-final defeat to Bayern Munich highlighted there were flaws in Rafael's game that needed to be sorted out.
As Ferguson pointed out today, he has reinforced the point on a number of occasions since.
Indeed, there have been times when it seemed the message was not getting home.
However, during United's chronic early-season defensive injury problems, Rafael has been one of the stand-out performers.
The 22-year-old has already scored twice this season and Ferguson claimed he was man of the match against Stoke on Saturday.
And, though the impending returns of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones will apply more pressure on the right-back berth, Ferguson believes Rafael's massive potential is now being realised.
"He is maturing and learning all the time," said Ferguson.
"Rafael has all the ingredients of a great player.
"He is blessed with great enthusiasm, skill and speed.
"He was quite impulsive and tended to over-commit himself.
"We have gone over it a few times but, bit by bit, it is all coming together and he was easily our best player Saturday."
Rafael's growing maturity shines through in the manner he accepts Ferguson's criticism but there are still issues to be resolved.
A disastrous mistake in the opening seconds of Brazil's Olympic final defeat to Mexico has probably contributed to him not being selected in any senior internationals since he made his debut in May.
With the World Cup set to be held in the most football mad nation on earth in 2014, Rafael has an additional incentive to maintain present progress though.
And he does feel people are starting to assess him in a slightly different manner.
"I do think they look at me differently now," he said.
"They way I play for United has changed a little bit and I have scored some goals as well.
"But mature is the word. I always want the ball. Now I read the game more and know what the opposing player is going to do.
"It is a big time for me. The World Cup is the big competition for Brazil and all the fans expect us to win.
"I am really looking forward to being there."
Bolton, relegated from the Barclays Premier League on the final day of last season, have been without a manager since sacking Owen Coyle on October 9 on the back of an indifferent start to life in the npower Championship.
Speculation regarding an approach for Freedman was widely reported over the weekend and, at Monday's press briefing for Tuesday night's trip to Wolves, caretaker manager Jimmy Phillips revealed chairman Phil Gartside has informed him of the club's intentions to secure the 38-year-old Scot as Coyle's successor.
Phillips said: "Phil said from the outset he'd be open and honest with us and he came to the training ground yesterday and said he had made contact with Palace to speak to Dougie Freedman."
Phillips, who led Wanderers to a 3-2 win over Bristol City in his first game at the helm on Saturday having been touted for the post himself in some quarters, added: "We've said all along, Phil and Eddie (Davies, owner) will be the people who pick the next manager of Bolton Wanderers.
"It won't be for anybody to put their names in the ring and suggest they want to be manager. In the meantime we said we would work our hardest to get the best out of the players."
Freedman joined Palace as a player in 1995 and went on to score 20 goals in 42 appearances in his first season and netted the club's fastest hat-trick with an 11-minute treble against Grimsby.
He left in 1997 but rejoined in 2000 and remained at Selhurst Park for eight years. He scored 108 goals during his two spells at the club.
After his playing career ended in 2010, Freedman joined Palace as assistant manager and was put in charge following the departure of George Burley in January 2011.
In his first full season at the helm, Freedman led the club to a famous 2-1 victory over Manchester United in the League Cup at Old Trafford but the club missed out on a place at Wembley after a penalty shoot-out defeat against Cardiff in the semi-final.
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