New Barcelona hero Raphinha has paid tribute to Marcelo Bielsa and admits his former Leeds United coach has played a significant factor in earning him his transfer to the Nou Camp.
The Brazil forward was the subject of intense speculation earlier this week as he awaited a dream move to the LaLiga giants. Leeds’ insistence to stay true to their valuation of the winger resulted in a tension-filled wait for the star. But having helped Leeds avoid the drop to the Championship, the Whites were not willing to stand in the way of their star’s dream.
But they did have a bottom-line valuation for their star man. And with Barcelona’s economic strife well documented, agreeing a fee did not prove easy.
And the nervous delay for Raphinha was made to go on when first Arsenal and then Chelsea tried to muscle in on the saga.
Ultimately, though, Raphinha did get his wish and the star has settled in quickly to his new surroundings.
Scoring against Real Madrid in Las Vegas over the weekend, Raphinha has made the best possible start for Barca.
However, speaking about the transfer, he admits the move would not be possible without the influence Bielsa had on his career.
“He is a coach who helped me a lot from the first moment I arrived at Leeds,” Raphinha told Mundo Deportivo.
“Bielsa always demands more, always demands maximum performance. He helped me get to the national team and helped me get to Barca. If it wasn’t for his teachings, as a group or individually, I probably wouldn’t be here.”
Raphinha admits he owes it all to Bielsa
Bielsa was sacked by Leeds in late February after a downturn in results.
And it’s clear from Raphinha’s words how Bielsa will always carry a place in Raphinha’s heart.
“In addition to having a style of play that is always respectful of the ball, he seeks maximum performance in training and in games.
“He was an important person for me and for my career and I will always carry him with me.”
Raphinha will hope that Xavi can have a similarly strong influence on his career.
And while he has only played under the Spaniard a short time, he was asked how the two compare.
“They are different, Marcelo has a unique way of working. It’s the ‘Marcelo Bielsa style’, let’s call it that. Every coach is different. Just as each person has a way of leading his life, each player and each coach is different in their work.”
New Barca star right to credit Bielsa
In his two seasons at Elland Road, Raphinha lit up the Premier League.
It was quite special from his very first moment in a Leeds United shirt that the club had a very special player on their hands. Indeed, his signing for a mere £17m will likely go down as a modern-day bargain.
Raphinha scored 17 goals and added 12 assists in his time in the Premier League. That amounted to a goal contribution every 2.2 matches.
And it was little surprise that Barcelona soon came calling for the Leeds United star.
How will Leeds fare in the Premier League next season without Raphinha and Kalvin Phillips?
How will Leeds cope without Raphinha and Kalvin Phillips in the upcoming campaign?
His call-up to the Brazil squad only served to raise his profile further.
But would Raphinha have made it there but for Bielsa? The evidence suggests that, for all his talent, he probably may not. He had had a solid career prior to his move to Leeds. But spells at Rennes and, before that Sporting Lisbon, would not have put him on their radar.
His time at Leeds was certainly to be celebrated. And it’s nice to hear the player pay an emotional tribute to the man who made it all possible.