With the Premier League season on the horizon, the transfer window is firmly in full swing. We’ve already seen a plethora of attacking talent wash up on English shores, with Erling Haaland joining champions Manchester City, Liverpool breaking their club record fee to prise Darwin Núñez from Benfica and Fabio Vieira becoming the first of several reported signings for Mikel Arteta at Arsenal.
While Youri Tielemans and Gabriel Jesus looked like formalities at the Emirates, the signing of Raphinha appears to have eluded them. The Leeds United winger, who joined in 2020 when the club were promoted from the Championship, has lit up Yorkshire in his two-year tenure this far, but the departure of Marcelo Bielsa and the club battling relegation could ensure his time is up at Elland Road.
The World Cup on the horizon could also influence his decision making. Brazil coach Tite tends to select players from more favourable club sides and while he handed Raphinha a debut last year, his minutes have been sporadic and a move could be required to ensure he books a place on the plane for Qatar. While that looked to be at Arsenal, Chelsea appear to have hijacked the move for the 25-year-old, with the new owners looking for a statement signing to kick off their new era.
The Brazilian had also been linked with Liverpool back in January, and those betting Premier League odds for the Reds were much higher before they signed Luis Díaz, as well as Bayern Munich on his radar. Raphinha is still one of the most sought-after properties in England — read on to find out why.
For a Brazilian player arriving from Ligue 1 — in this case Rennes after a stint at Sporting Lisbon — there was bound to be some eyebrows raised over Raphinha’s ability to adapt to life in England. Leeds, especially when first promoted, were a very intense team, devoted to counter-pressing and regaining possession in dangerous areas. Raphinha has no problem doing the dirty side of the game just as much as creating chances and penetrating defences in the final third. His running stats speak for themselves as one of the hardest working players in the league despite being set up in a more advanced role.
Ability to adapt
As mentioned, Leeds would often set up to suffocate the opponent, but Raphinha’s time in the Brazil national team, as well as appearances in Europe allowed him to experience the flip side of the coin. At Chelsea, he would play in a more possession-based system, with the intention to break the lines as quickly as possible and find a way through the various low blocks teams from across the bottom half of the table will likely employ. His pace and dribbling ability allow him to run at defenders as well as an astute passing range to quickly switch play.
Given how much Leeds struggled last season, it’s impressive that Raphinha managed 17 goals and 12 assists in his two seasons in Yorkshire. That said, he still has plenty of room to improve and you would expect him to find the back of the net more regularly at Stamford Bridge. With better attacking players — Mason Mount, Christian Pulisic, Kai Havertz etc, there will be competition for places but the Premier League introducing a five substitutes rule will all but guarantee game time at some stage of the season or another, especially given the congestion of games before and after the World Cup.