Marcelo Bielsa has revealed why Leeds star man Raphinha is blowing his opponents away this season and believes he is starting to have a greater influence on his Leeds United team-mates.
The Brazilian has been Leeds’ standout player of the season so far with five goals in 10 Premier League games. The winger has also been called up by Brazil and was in action for the Samba boys this week. He started the 1-0 win over Colombia and the 0-0 draw with Argentina before flying back to England on a private jet with a host of other Premier League stars.
Raphinha will be hoping to get the go ahead to start against Spurs on Sunday, as the Whites look to climb away from the relegation zone.
The 24-year-old has been almost an ever present this season and Bielsa was asked how he can balance his workload.
“Another characteristic of the elite players is they are ambitious and the demands and limits they put on themselves. They don’t need an external stimulus to want them to do this,” said Bielsa in Friday’s Thorp Arch press conference.
“He is sufficiently good right now. If you ask me how I manage his evolution. I would say to maintain performances like those he is achieving would be a great indicator.
“And the other great challenge the players that shine have, is to transfer that evolution to his team-mates and to the team. Raphinha will be a lot better if the team is better and his team-mates are better.
“What I say is not a conclusion elaborated by myself, but a conclusion comes from the players who shine. They start by unbalancing alone, they manage to facilitate how their team-mates performed, and that development of the collective game improves the team. That process is a great challenge.”
Asked how the winger can maintain his potency, Bielsa said: “More than I do, it’s what he does. Every player that has the capacity to unbalance individually, they have a consciousness of the different type of control receptions in which they can impose themselves.”
The Whites boss then explained that how and where Raphinha receives the ball makes him very difficult to defend against.
“The players that unbalance well is what’s most convenient for them is to receive a lot of balls doing it far away from the markers that they’re up against. And to receive the ball more on the move than standing still and managing to take contact with the ball in spaces where the opponent doesn’t expect it.
“No player that unbalances, ignores how to resolve these issues and receive the ball in good conditions.
“As much as I say more than the power to eliminate players one-v-one. The virtue that allows them to shine is how they receive the ball,” added Bielsa.
Leeds’ injured quartet Patrick Bamford, Luke Ayling, Robin Koch and Junior Firpo are all still missing.
Bielsa said: “Firpo is evolving, he’s healthy. All he needs is minutes now. Koch is further away from returning than Ayling and Bamford.
“The evolution is controlled on a daily basis and I would not want to give you a date that won’t be met. When my responses are brief it’s because I can’t offer certainty.”
Asked whether Joe Gelhardt and Jamie Shackleton would play for the Under-23s, Bielsa said: “Probably Gelhardt.
“[Shackleton] He’s in a similar situation to Firpo, towards the end of the process but always in that process, they need to be match fit to play.”