F365 says: Raphinha is perfect for Leeds, and Liverpool…

Will Ford

It looked as though he would move towards the corner flag and recycle the ball; that’s certainly what Gary Cahill thought as he shadowed Raphinha away from goal. But with legs akimbo, Cahill became the latest chump in an increasing number of Premier League chumps to attempt to cope with Leeds’ wonderfully talented, incredibly hard-working new winger. That backheeled nutmeg and his pinpoint cross from the resulting free-kick are examples of the moments of note that have caught the eye of many suitors; all the work he does off the ball make him perfect for one suitor in particular.

Liverpool officials are said to have been ‘blown away’ by Raphinha on their scouting missions and it’s thought he would ‘link up well with Roberto Fimino’. That report claimed he could be a replacement for La Liga-bound Mo Salah, but he’s got the versatility and quality to play anywhere across that front three. The Liverpool scouts are definitely on to something.

Other than Xherdan Shaqiri – whose stats are from a much smaller sample size – Raphinha betters every Liverpool player per 90 minutes in key passes (2.15) and assists (0.31), and only Sadio Mane produces more shot creating actions (3.99 – 3.78) and completes more dribbles (2.39 – 1.85).

At Liverpool – like at Leeds – attacking quality must be allied with work off the ball and defensive responsibility. Raphinha makes more tackles (1.46) than any of Liverpool’s fabled front three and only Firmino contributes more ‘pressing actions’ (15.9 – 15.3).

His first touch is impeccable, his awareness of space is remarkable and the timing and angling of his runs off the ball means he constantly finds himself on the blindside of defenders, who are inevitably too slow to catch him.

That was the case for Leeds’ second of the night against Palace. Mateusz Klich’s pass was a simple one, made to look brilliant by Raphinha’s run in front of Tyrick Mitchell and behind Cahill, who was made to feel every one of his 35 years by the Brazilian scamp at Elland Road. He perhaps should have done better when through on goal, but his firm strike was parried into the path of Patrick Bamford – who tapped the ball home.

He’s got a bit of everything Jurgen Klopp seems to covet in his forward players – the hard work and touch of Firmino, the movement of Salah and the dribbling ability of Mane.

For those that question whether he can make the step up would do well to remember the more humble surroundings of Liverpool’s current front three before they arrived at Anfield, as well as Diogo Jota, whose signing this summer many dared to question before he quickly put them in their place.

There’s been off-and-on talk of Liverpool moving for Kylian Mbappe, which is ridiculous not only because they would never spend the money required to land him, but also because it would be an unnecessary move away from their policy of signing forwards with something to prove. Raphinha should be next.

Teammate-cum-agent Patrick Bamford called the £17million summer signing an “absolute steal” in his post-match interview and admitted he was “surprised that more established Premier League teams haven’t taken a punt on him”.

The more he plays, the less of a punt he becomes. Raphinha has established himself as one of the most dynamic, exciting attacking forces in the Premier League in just over four months; Leeds will do well to keep him past four more.


Will Ford is on Twitter