Raphinha has been told he would have been a massive success had he signed for Arsenal this summer – with Fabrizio Romano offering his thoughts on the Brazilian’s struggles at Barcelona so far.
The winger found himself the subject of intense speculation this summer after his starring role for Leeds United. Indeed, the 11 goals and three assists that Raphinha came up with, were a significant factor in the Whites’ dramatic escape from the drop. And while Leeds were keen to tie him down to a long-term deal, it was clear very early on that Raphinha had bigger ambitions.
To that end, the player pretty much made it clear from the moment the season ended that he wanted to sign for Barcelona. He left the deal in the capable hands of his agent, the former Chelsea player Deco.
However, negotiating a deal with Barcelona proved trickier than imagined. Crippling financial worries at the Camp Nou saw the Catalonian giants try to get Raphinha on the cheap.
And their delay opened the door for others to chance their arm. Arsenal were the first other side to throw their hat into the ring. Their interest, though, was quickly dismissed owing to a lack of Champions League football.
However, it was Chelsea who perhaps came nearest of all to beating Barcelona to the punch. They struck a hefty deal with Leeds, reportedly close to the £60m mark, with the player even holding talks with the Blues.
But Raphinha’s heart was always set on Barcelona and, when he rejected the move, Leeds were forced to renegotiate with the LaLiga giants.
And when a deal was eventually struck, the two sides settled on a fee which will eventually top £57.6m with add-ons.
Raphinha struggling at Barcelona so far
However, the move to Barcelona has not gone as well as expected so far for the Brazilian.
He has been in and out of Xavi’s side, with competition in the forward places strong. And when he has started games, Raphinha has often found himself one of the first players replaced as the coach looks to make changes.
To illustrate his struggles, Raphinha has just one goal and one assist from the 12 appearances he has to his name.
Indeed, the Brazilian let his frustrations spill over when he was withdrawn early during the recent Champions League draw with Inter.
Barcelona needed a win to keep their progression hopes alive. Heading into the injury time, they were trailing 3-2, only for Robert Lewandowski to strike a last-gasp levelller to keep them alive. That said, they still face an upward battle to reach the knockout stages.
And their coach Xavi now has the worst record from his first 50 games in charge of any of Barca’s last 10 managers.
Barca’s struggles are in stark contrast to that of Arsenal, who are currently enjoying one of the six best starts by any side in Premier League history.
And asked whether Raphinha should have given Arsenal more than a casual rejection, Romano has had his say.
But speaking to Caught Offside, he insisted it was too early to label Raphinha a flop at Barcelona.
“I’m not big fan of judging a player’s decisions after one or two months: he’s in a new country, new football, new system, new manager, new club. He needs time,” Romano said.
Game time would also have been limited at Arsenal
“He’s a top player in a top club and so I think it’s matter of time for Raphinha to find his feet at Barcelona.
“Having said that, he would’ve been the perfect kind of player for Arsenal and Mikel Arteta, who is a big fan.”
Looking at the way Arsenal set up, it would also be hard to see where Raphinha would get game time at Arsenal too.
They have fan favourite Bukayo Saka in fine form down the right wing – Raphinha’s preferred position – and it would be hard to see him playing ahead of him there.
And on the other flank they have the equally-impressive Gabriel Martinelli. Like Saka, he’s also made an excellent start to the season.
Furthermore, Raphinha made it clear that the only club he wanted to leave Leeds for was Barcelona. They were the club he followed as a child, with family friend Ronaldinho his boyhood hero. As such, they were the only club he saw himself at after leaving Elland Road.
Leeds, for their part, used their Raphinha windfall wisely. They brought in Luis Sinisterra with the funds generated from his sale and the Colombian already looks a class act for Jesse Marsch’s side.