Leeds winger Raphinha has spoken of his pride as his full international debut for Brazil looms – and reveals he had the opportunity to play for another international side first.
The attacker has raised his game to another level since moving to the Premier League. In 38 appearances for Leeds, he has nine goals and nine assists – with his performances lighting up the Premier League.
The only surprise is that his international debut for Brazil has taken so long to arrive.
Now, speaking about his unveiling, Raphinha has outlined his pride as a first cap – in Friday’s World Cup qualifier against Venezuela – looms.
“It was very complicated, I was very frustrated,” the Leeds star said.
“It was my first call, I was really looking forward to coming and showing my work.
“Of course I hoped to come until the last moment. I kept in touch with Juninho, the committee staff as well, talking to the club staff to see if somehow this could be resolved. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be. These were government and country issues, which were not for us to resolve.
“What I could do was keep my head on straight, keep working. I knew that in a few weeks I was going to have another call up.
“So I could only keep focused, my head clear to keep working to have another opportunity. Then I waited for the moment to celebrate again.”
Despite the call, Raphinha finds himself at the centre of more red tape which look to impact on Leeds’ plans to face Southampton.
It would certainly have been easier had the player accepted an invitation to represent Italy instead.
Many Brazil-born players have taken that route over the years – Chelsea pair Emerson Palmieri and Jorginho being examples.
However, despite holding a series of chats with Chelsea midfielder Jorginho over the move, Raphinha insists he always intended to represent Brazil.
“I was contacted, talked to Jorginho too, but it’s very complicated to change the national team when you don’t live there. It’s not even that you don’t feel at ease, but you are not part of it,” he said.
“The Brazilian team has always been my goal, since I was little. Even with dual citizenship, my desire has always been to represent the national team. Even with contact, with conversations I had.”
Raphinha feels pride at Brazil call
Now, as his debut looms, the winger has spoken of his enormous pride at finally being able to represent la Selecao.
“It’s a very happy moment in my career, in my life,” he said.
“Not only do I represent Restinga, my family, my friends, but the entire community where I grew up, I lived until I was 16, who always supported me, in one way or another they always tried to help me stay focused on the right path . Don’t shift focus to other things.
“Even though I’m here, the penny hasn’t dropped yet. I talked to my parents earlier, I trained, I met players I was always a fan of, I rooted for them. And now I think it will only sink in after the debut, the first game.
“I believe it is a moment that mixes a lot of feelings, a lot of joy, a lot of happiness and nervousness on the positive side. But soon these butterflies in my stomach will pass.”