Barcelona's Raphinha nightmare could be a Leeds United dream as Joan Laporta addresses Deco role

Barcelona president Joan Laporta has openly admitted they are tracking Leeds United star Raphinha but insists the club is not paying the player's agent Deco.

By Graham Smyth
Tuesday, 29th March 2022, 11:35 am

In an interview with RAC1, Laporta was only too happy to mention the Brazilian winger as he discussed potential summer transfer business at Camp Nou.

Barcelona, he says, consider Raphinha to be a 'great' player after almost two seasons in the Premier League. Raphinha scored six times in the English top flight in his first campaign and has nine goals to his name so far this season, making him Leeds' star man and a regular for Tite's Brazil.

He is contracted to the summer of 2024 and, contrary to reports elsewhere, has no buy-out clause in his current deal if Leeds stay in the Premier League, so a huge fee will be required to prise him from Elland Road. If they were to suffer relegation, which looks unlikely after their last two wins pushed them seven points clear of the drop zone, he would of course be among those expected to leave in order to balance the books.

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Liverpool were heavily linked with the 25-year-old last summer, although they never made an offer, and Bayern Munich were said to be keen on Raphinha in January but again did not make their interest known to Leeds.

Barcelona are the first club to openly discuss their admiration of the Leeds dangerman and Deco's proximity to his former club is thought to play strongly in their favour. The 75-cap Portugal legend was reported to have taken on a South American scouting role for Barcelona, but Laporta has stressed that it is not a paid role.

"We have two signings lined up, maybe a centre-back and a midfielder, yes. It could be a central defender and a midfielder, yes," Laporta told RAC1.

"Raphinha, on the other hand, is a great player. We have good reports on him. Deco has his job and informs us of details so we don't make mistakes. And in some cases he has helped us a lot. I want to clarify that Deco's not paid by the club. He will just help us because he dominates the Brazilian market".

WANTED MAN - Leeds United winger Raphinha is a player Barcelona want to sign this summer, but they're not his only admirers. Pic: Bruce Rollinson

Barcelona, however, are not the only European giant who could offer Raphinha Champions League football and 2022/23 title aspirations in one of the 'big five' leagues, and they are not the only club interested in making him a summer addition. Although much of the talk around a possible Barcelona move has revolved around personal terms and discussions between the Spanish club and Deco, there is no sense at the Leeds end that a deal has been done. Barcelona are yet to make an official offer and talks have not yet begun, leaving plenty of room for others to enter the conversation and pip them to the post in what would now be their nightmare scenario, given Laporta's declaration of interest and the volume of noise around a possible deal. A bidding war would be a dream scenario for Leeds, though, who have no intention of selling the player on the cheap and believe they can command an eye-watering sum. It would also benefit Raphinha, guaranteeing options and the best possible salary.

A summer departure does look likely, although Leeds' offer of a new contract will remain on the table.

In the meantime, Raphinha will be back in training this week after a period of isolation having tested positive for Covid-19 ahead of the win over Wolves. His attitude towards training has not changed during the speculation over his future and the club believe he is fully engaged in the relegation fight with eight huge games remaining, starting with the visit of Southampton on Saturday. Patrick Bamford's renewed problem with a foot injury will once again place enormous responsibility on the winger as Leeds seek the two wins that would likely guarantee safety.