Raphinha's heartfelt Elland Road moment adds fuel to Leeds United fear

Raphinha soaked up Elland Road's adoration following Leeds United's last-gasp 1-1 draw with Brighton and Hove Albion

By Joe Donnohue
Sunday, 15th May 2022, 7:05 pm

Leeds attacker Raphinha sat solemnly at the base of the goalposts beneath the Norman Hunter Stand after United drew 1-1 with Brighton and Hove Albion.

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The Brazilian appeared to be absorbing the remnants of an afternoon in which Pascal Struijk kept survival hopes alive with a stoppage time header.

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FLAIR: Raphinha has dazzled spectators throughout his time at Elland Road (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

Raphinha was approached, firstly by Kalvin Phillips, and then director of football Victor Orta, as the pair spoke separately with the 25-year-old talisman.

It followed United's final home game of the season, after which the first-team squad proceeded to do a lap of honour around Elland Road.

Rumours linking the Brazilian with a move away from West Yorkshire have been constant throughout his second season as a Leeds player.

Five months ago, links arose purporting a deal had been agreed with German giants Bayern Munich, while supposed interest from Liverpool made headlines prior to the Reds' move for Luis Diaz.

GRIN: Leeds United duo Kalvin Phillips and Raphinha smile following the 1-1 draw with Brighton (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

Spanish sources recently reported Barcelona had taken a serious interest in the player; the latest club in a long list of elite suitors.

On the terraces at Elland Road, there is a reluctant acceptance that Raphinha's career will progress elsewhere, away from Leeds United and that a summer departure appears likely, regardless of how United finish the campaign.

Relegation to the Championship would all but guarantee Raphinha's exit, however there is lingering hope that a Premier League stay could persuade Raphinha to remain, as improbable as that seems.

As Phillips approached Raphinha at the end of the game, he brandished a homemade, cardboard sign in the Brazilian's direction which read: "Raphinha. Make me smile."

EXCHANGE: Victor Orta and Raphinha chat following Leeds' final home game of the season (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images)

The pair shared a brief conversation and exchanged grins before heading down the tunnel and back to the dressing room - perhaps for the final time at Elland Road.

Tucked under his arm, Raphinha carried the cardboard sign - it could yet prove to be a lasting memento from his time at the club.

HELPING HAND: Leeds United players Kalvin Phillips (L) and Raphinha (R) speak after the 1-1 draw with Brighton