Raphinha's agent Deco on Liverpool's interest, Leeds United intentions and Brazil winger's ambitions
Raphinha's agent Deco has confirmed that while Liverpool made no summer approach for the Leeds United winger, they are among his admirers.
But the former Portuguese international has predicted that his client will move on from Elland Road to further his career and that Leeds will want to make an 'important' sale.
Speaking to Brazilian media outlet Globo, Deco said Raphinha's stellar debut season in the Premier League would naturally lead to transfer interest from elsewhere."Raphinha has become an important player in the Premier League, the club knows he has grown and things will happen naturally," he said.
"He's young, he has many challenges ahead, there are certainly several clubs that like him, and Liverpool do like him, there were surveys, but nothing official. Leeds wanted to keep him for another season.
"Raphinha is happy at Leeds and for sure the time will come to take the biggest leap in her career, to take a step forward. He has a three-year contract, but it is not the contract that defines the length of stay or prevents transfers. Leeds is aware, they will want to make an important sale, and Raphinha will end up growing in his career."
Given all the noises from Leeds' majority owner Andrea Radrizzani about following the Leicester City model, which has been underpinned with the development and subsequent sales of talent for huge amounts of profit, the idea of losing a star player at some point in the future will not come as a huge shock to the Whites fanbase. A move to Leeds has helped the player's profile grow remarkably, giving him a platform to showcase his skill in what his head coach Marcelo Bielsa today called the 'best league in the world.' It has also led to international recognition - Raphinha is reportedly set for his full international debut with Brazil in the early hours of tomorrow morning as his career takes another step forward.
Prior to playing for Leeds his time with Portuguese outfits Vitória Guimarães and Sporting, both of whom he played for in the Europa League, and Rennes, who he helped qualify for the Champions League, did not yield Seleção recognition.
It was only after a Premier League season under Marcelo Bielsa at Elland Road, in which he contributed six goals and nine assists, that the 24-year-old was called up by Brazil head coach Tite.
He came off the bench twice in the past week to gain his first two international caps, impressing in both displays against Venezuela and Colombia, and is in line for a third against Uruguay on Friday morning.
"I told Raphinha that he could have an opportunity in the Brazilian team, because he has different characteristics from the other extremes, I always thought. I see the team, I know Raphinha and I see football, I told him I would wait a bit, seeing that he would have a chance," said Deco.
"But we were in a year of pandemic, a lot of people could not travel to see players, that makes it difficult. He stood out a lot in the Premier League, and Leeds is not one of the best known clubs. This drew attention, he has merit for having been called up."
When the winger departed Sporting for Rennes and when he left the Ligue 1 club for Leeds, Deco made clear it was not the player's decision but that of the seller.
In September 2019 the agent said: "Things were always very clear, it was a decision solely and exclusively for Sporting. It was Sporting's decision, we have to be prepared for it."
Earlier this year he addressed the departure from Rennes, saying: "We don't know why Rennes decide to sell Raphinha, that is a question for them not Raphinha.
"I don't know if it was a financial decision, or a technical decision."
In his latest interview Deco insists that the player himself has constructed his CV through his own hard work, growing sufficiently as a performer to shine and attract opportunities.
"Of course, you try to analyze and advise as best you can, but then it's the player, what he does on a daily basis, he's dedicated, the agent is the one who advises, but he you have to work and look for the best solutions," he said.
"After Vitória, Raphinha was sold to Sporting. Playing in Portugal was important for his growth, he went from a medium club to a big one. Then Sporting had to sell Raphinha, Rennes' project was very good. At the time, Raphinha was the club's biggest signing. He stood out in the French Championship, and Rennes also needed to sell him, everything happened quickly in his career.
"Leeds' option was good, a solid club, with a good coach. Leeds really believed in Raphinha and they hired him. During this entire period, we try to advise on the options we have, but in the end the player builds his career as opportunities arise."
As for what might come next for the man Leeds United fans have adopted as a firm favourite, a man contracted until 2024, Deco says now is not the time to discuss it. But discuss it he did, just enough to put firmly on record the player's ambition and hint at what can only be interpreted as Champions League aspirations.
Whatever Raphinha's future holds, Deco expects it to come to his player naturally.
"Raphinha will play at the highest level for many years, I don't know if in Premier forever, but it will definitely be in the options," he said.
"Raphinha has a market, and Leeds has high expectations, it was never a project in a hurry. He has ambitions to play at a higher level despite Leeds being in the Premier League. But this is not the time - things will happen naturally."