Raphinha of Leeds United is one of the hottest players in European football at the moment. After a blistering season in the Premier League, he’s currently turning heads at some of the grand old clubs of Europe. FC Barcelona, Chelsea and Arsenal are all sniffing round, looking to whisk him away from Elland Road.
Before we delve into why these elite clubs are showing so much interest, let’s learn a bit more about the man himself.
Born Raphael Dias Belloli, Raphinha holds dual Brazilian and Italian citizenship. 176 centimeters tall and weighing in at 58 kilograms, Raphinha is, primarily, an attacking player. A left-footer, his favourite position on the field is out on the right wing and, despite his relative youth, Raphinha is no novice and has already cut his teeth at some big European clubs.
At 25, Raphinha has just completed his second season at Leeds United. But this is not the first European club he’s been associated with.
Raphinha first set foot on the continent in 2015, arriving in Portugal from his native Brazil to join the Vitoria de Guimaraes Academy. After a meteoric rise to the first team, he quickly jumped ship to Portuguese football giants, Sporting Lisbon.
From here, he was lured to France when Rennes paid Sporting €8 million to acquire his services. Two years later, Leeds United picked him up for double that fee.
Nowadays, whoever picks him up next will be looking at forking out a reported €60 million to bag him.
Raphinha’s physical conditioning means that he can generate great speed on the counterattack, both when looking for space and with the ball at his feet. He complements this with spectacular vision and a mastery of launching attacks from set pieces.
These attributes have earned him a place in the Brazilian national team and, without a doubt, he’s one of their great hopes for the next World Cup in Qatar.
Looking at his professional career, Raphinha has been exceptionally consistent throughout. During his last six seasons in top-flight football in three different countries, he has played more than 35 games per season.
However, it could be argued that it was during last season, with Leeds and Brazil, that he really broke through to the highest levels of the game. 45 games, 14 goals and 4 assists - figures that he only previously reached during his first year at Guimaraes.
Raphinha has attracted a lot of attention from these big European teams despite the fact that Leeds were battling to avoid relegation at the end of the season.
This is testament to his skill and attributes, which we’ll look at in detail now.
Apart from his first season in Portugal, Raphinha has been averaging 8-10 goals per season. This is a respectable total for a winger who is clearly not a centre forward.
But this season, his scoring tally has shot up to 15 goals between club and country.
Breaking down this number, we can see that the Brazilian has scored 11 goals at Leeds. This means that he scored 25% of Leeds’ total goals this season. Whilst it’s true that some of these goals came from the penalty spot, it’s still an impressive feat.
As we can see from the images below, Raphinha has scored this season from:
Although it wasn’t a season were he was most decisive in this respect, partly due to teammates not providing sufficient support, Raphinha stands out for his ability to assist the forward line.
His vision and understanding of the game means that we can draw lines from practically anywhere on the pitch towards the goal line.
Five assists have been attributed to Raphinha this season. This means that he participated in almost 40% of Leeds’ goals.
Once again, we can see a lot of diversity in these assists, whether that be through his speed, finding space between opponents, anticipating the movement of his teammates or simply disrupting poorly organised defenses. Check out these images:
As a Brazilian, Raphina is characterised by the deft ball control of his fellow countrymen. This is a skill that he combines with speed to create impossible runs and memorable goals, like this one against Norwich.
As you can see, the Brazilian receives the ball in front but checks himself, allowing the opposition defenders to regroup. Raphinha then zigzags through into the central lane, getting a low shot off between the gaggle of defenders.
In addition to all his other attributes, Raphinha has surgical precision with his left foot. Because of this, he was responsible for the majority of set pieces for club and country.
From the left wing, Raphinha strikes with his natural food. This is how he created one of Brazil’s goals in a friendly against South Korea. He launches the ball like a missile into the Korean six yard box, ready for his teammates to slot it home.
Or against West Ham with Leeds. A cross to the exact same place in the heart of the area to give his teammate a free shot on goal, a goal that put Leeds ahead against one of the sensations of the English championship.
And he can deal the same damage from the right hand side, the location where he usually plays. From here, Raphinha hits it with his “weak” foot, producing the same effect as from the opposite side.
He has scored some freekicks from the right this season, like the ones seen in the goals section, but he has also provided some great crosses for his teammates to get onto the end of.
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Raphinha is a diamond in the rough which still needs to be polished. As you can see from this report, the Brazilian has everything needed to be one of the world’s best players: speed, control and an excellent understanding of the game.
Furthermore, if we look at his evolution, he continues to grow and develop, as witnessed by his ever-increasing market value. And, at 25 years old, he still has plenty of room to maneuver.
It looks likely that this summer he’ll take a step up to one of Europe’s top teams, and that’s when he’ll have to prove his mettle.
Additionally, he has an excellent opportunity to show his worth at the Qatar World Cup in November.
For now, we’ll say that he’s a work in progress, definitely worth the price Leeds paid for him, but yet to prove he can make it in the top-flight. One to watch in the future.
*Note: Data and images in this report have been downloaded from the InStat platform and analysed with Nacsport and KlipDraw.
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