Three reasons Chelsea's Raphinha bid is easier to stomach for Leeds United than Arsenal switch

Arsenal looked set to land Leeds United winger Raphinha before Chelsea’s timely intervention this week

By Joe Donnohue
Thursday, 30th June 2022, 7:00 am

This time last week Raphinha to Arsenal was gathering pace. The Gunners had lodged an offer with Leeds which was duly turned down, United 'baffled' by the approach given their cordial relationship with the north London club.

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Arsenal's bid was too low to even consider, but it was a watershed moment, one which set the ball rolling and crucially has jerked other suitors into action.

Raphinha of Leeds United warms up prior to his final fixture for the Whites (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

Seven days later and Leeds are on the verge of agreeing a fee in the region of £55-60 million with Chelsea for the Brazilian's services. Prior to Arsenal's bid, it was said that Raphinha's preferred destination were he to stay in England would have been the Blues due to the lure of Champions League football.

After surgery at boardroom level, flirtatious courting of Manchester City's Raheem Sterling and fluttering their eyelids at departing Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele, new owner and sporting director Todd Boehly has landed on the Leeds talisman instead.

It is plausible Chelsea may still sign either of the other pair, but committing in excess of £50 million for a player who does not on paper fit Thomas Tuchel's preferred 3-4-2-1 formation, is a statement signing.

Raphinha's best work occurs when the Brazil international receives the ball wide on the right and is afforded space to cut inside onto his favoured left foot. Several of his Leeds United goals have arisen in this fashion and much like former Stamford Bridge wideman Arjen Robben, even though defenders know what to expect, they find it difficult to stop.

Arsenal may feel hard done by that they have been gazumped by a London rival but Raphinha can count himself fortunate he is unlikely to end up at the Emirates' Stadium next season.

Musings on social media from well-placed Arsenal sources indicated the 25-year-old had been earmarked as a potential weapon on the left-hand side of Mikel Arteta's youthful attack - a position Raphinha is not unfamiliar with, but certainly not optimal in.

His appearances on the left flank for Leeds have been forgettable, short-lived and ineffectual; he is a player who much prefers driving at defenders on the inside as the opposition back-pedal, thrown off balance by his jinking movement.

While Raphinha is ostensibly a winger, he is not the archetypal wideman who surges to the byline, before cutting back or crossing into the penalty area.

Even if the whisperings of Arteta's plans were unfounded, Raphinha would have been faced with one of English football's finest young attackers in Bukayo Saka for competition on the right-hand side.

Jostling for supremacy with the England youngster in that area of the pitch has rendered £72 million addition Nicolas Pepe a mere afterthought at the Emirates, something Raphinha can scarcely afford given his bid to make head coach Tite's Brazil squad at this year's upcoming FIFA World Cup.

Additionally, Arsenal missed out on Champions League football last term, finishing fifth in the Premier League table, consigned to the Europa League - a much-maligned competition in the red half of north London.

The collective strength of the Premier League means a seat at the table of Europe's premium club competition in 2023/24 is never guaranteed, even for the so-called 'Big Six'. If Raphinha has designs on playing Champions League football, his first choice need not be Arsenal.

Champions Manchester City have bolstered their squad with the addition of Norwegian goliath Erling Haaland, whilst Liverpool have mitigated for the loss of Sadio Mane's goals by adding Benfica striker Darwin Nunez. Chelsea's new regime intends to flex its financial muscle, while yet another Manchester United's reset under Erik ten Hag is likely to see a swathe of Dutch players arrive at Old Trafford, including €65m-rated Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong.

Barcelona remains the romantic destination for the Leeds winger, but it is unlikely the Catalan club's finances will bend to Leeds' demands or even to match Chelsea's bid.

Raphinha's performances since arriving at Elland Road shouldn't mean he has to settle for a second-rate European competition, when he has demonstrated first-rate ability.

The blanket resignation among Leeds followers upon the final whistle at Brentford was an indicator of Raphinha's ceiling, if nothing else.

Football fans rarely agree on anything, but Leeds supporters understood that Elland Road's Brazil international had played his final game for the club.

Personal terms are unlikely to stand in Chelsea's way, nor would they have complicated any transfer involving Arsenal or Barcelona.

Raphinha's displays have entertained the masses and deservedly so, has chief negotiators of Europe's top clubs chasing his signature. Few expect him to park his ambition for another season by staying put, or signing for a club many deem beneath him.