'I want him, I want him' - Victor Orta reveals story behind Leeds United's Raphinha capture and ends transfer gossip

The Whites sporting director has been discussing Leeds United winger Raphinha.

Tuesday, 9th March 2021, 12:41 pm

Leeds United have had no approaches for winger Raphinha and would not welcome any, according to Elland Road sporting director Victor Orta.

The Whites are currently playing out their first Premier League campaign for 16 years under Marcelo Bielsa following promotion from the Championship last summer.

United splashed out around £100m in transfer fees amid preparations for top flight football, breaking their transfer record to land the signature of Valencia forward Rodrigo (£27m).

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Deadline day signing Raphinha, though, has been one of the captures of the season - not just in West Yorkshire but across the Premier League as a whole.

Leeds parted with £17m for his services from French outfit Stade Rennes and have had a return of five goals and five assists in just 19 starts.

The 24-year-old is fast becoming a fan favourite in LS11 due to his trickery, fast flowing style and unpredictable nature. The Brazilian's adaptation to England's top division has been so swift that the Premier League rumour mill has already kicked into gear over his future.

Reports from abroad last week suggested the wide man was on the radar of arch rivals Manchester United - despite Raphinha signing a four-year contract last summer - while Liverpool have also previously been linked.

Leeds United sporting director Victor Orta (right), owner Andrea Radrizzani (middle) and managing director Angus Kinnear (left). Pic: Getty

Raphinha himself spoke out about his happiness with the Whites recently while his agent - Deco - also reiterated belief that he felt his client had settled well at the club following his transfer to England last September.

Orta - who was speaking to BBC Radio Leeds - quickly dispelled any transfer chatter involving the Brazilian, revealing it is completely premature.

"To be clear we have not had any approach for Raphinha. We would not welcome one," Orta said.

"It’s only for clickbait and to create business for the websites. We are really, really happy and we believe he’s a player that’s a substantial part of the project – and more now when there’s still a lot of things to do.

Orta added: "We know the player a lot of years ago - I need to highlight my scouting department. They highlighted him when he was 18 in a tournament in Brazil. One of our scouts travelled by car each month at least one weekend to watch him [in Portugal].

"I don't want to take any credit because it's a lot of people around me to create the information.

"It's true that I remember I was one Saturday in the centre of Leeds and I received a phone call from the agent of Raphinha [Deco].

"He said for difficult reasons to explain Raphinha is available. It was a moment at the end of the market. We were trying for the loan of Daniel James until the last moment. I felt that was the moment to react.

"I remember perfect. I started speaking in Spanish and nobody understood around me. I say 'I want him, I want him'.

"With the knowledge of the player from six years ago, I didn't need to review the situation. My only doubt was 'what's happened?'

"It was explained when it was internal, political reasons about new players arriving in France. They needed to create room - he was the only player they could sell."

Orta also spoke of his surprise at United's ability to land Raphinha, after being told a definitive 'no' during tentative enquiries for his services.

"It was strange because they [Stade Rennes] were in the Champions League," he added.

"The first time I called Deco for Raphinha was in May. He told me 'Victor, he's not available for a lot of reasons'. Rennes was going to the Champions League. It's true they also only have one year there, long contract and then Deco and another person said he wasn't available. So I never called again.

"Then they remember our first approach. It's a player we discussed before with Marcelo [Bielsa]. I remember at the beginning of lockdown that we discuss a lot of names. He [Bielsa] has a lot of information from France in his period there.

"We talked about him and he asked me my opinion. It's true his adaptation has been impressive. Normally it needs time. Perhaps the new signings will be better in the second year, but I don't predict.

"The real credit is with my scouting department that highlighted them. They deserve the credit. They are behind the scenes and are really important."